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Autism or autistic disorder is the most widely studied and best described of these disorders. Many girls with Rett syndrome also have epilepsy and other neurologic abnormalities.
It is characterized by deficits in social relatedness, deficits in language and communication, and stereotyped and restricted patterns of behavior, and is frequently but not always accompanied by mental retardation. Historical Development of the Concept of Autism II. Asperger’s Disorder is often considered a mild form of Autistic Disorder, and there is still controversy about how distinct it is from autism; diagnostically, it can be distinguished from autism by normal development of language.
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Autistic Disorder is marked by the presence of symptomatology in three areas: (1) qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by such behaviors as abnormal or reduced eye contact with others, failure to develop peer relationships, lack of spontaneous sharing of interests with others (e.g., showing or pointing out objects of interest to the caregiver), (2) qualitative impairment in communication, as manifested by delayed or deviant language without attempts to compensate through nonverbal communication, poor conversational skills if speech is present, and repetitive and stereotyped language and play, and (3) a restricted and repetitive repertoire of behaviors and interests, including preoccupations and rituals, or severe resistance to environmental changes.
Current diagnostic practice, as reflected in the DSM-IV, classifies Autistic Disorder as one of four specific entities within Pervasive Developmental Disorder.
Beginning in the early to mid-1980s, research attention also began to focus seriously on the social and affective aspects of autism, both to clarify the range of heterogeneity in autistic children’s functioning, and to posit new core deficits in these areas.
Beginning with Rimland’s seminal work on autism in 1964, psychology and psychiatry began to explore seriously the biological foundations of autism, and theories of autism as resulting from disturbances in attention, language, sensory integration, perceptual constancy, and other neurological functions were promulgated and tested.