Autism is characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication. Examples of social deficits include lack of initiations in social play and lack of interest or awareness of others. Examples of communication deficits include delays in spoken language, lack of initiation in conversations with others, and stereotyped or repetitive vocalizations. In addition, individuals with an autism spectrum disorder often have stereotyped motor actions, have a restricted range of interests, and show a resistance to change in routine. These delays are usually observed prior to age 3. In addition, Autism is usually associated with a delay in cognitive skills and a diagnosis of mental retardation, which may range from mild to profound.
Asperger’s Disorder is similar to Autism in that there are severe deficits in social interaction, the presence of stereotyped and repetitive behavior. In addition, these features must cause impairment in social functioning. However, unlike individuals diagnosed with autism, those diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder do not have significant delays in language acquisition or cognitive development. Features present with Asperger’s are typically not detected before 3 years of age. A diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder is not given if criteria are met for another Pervasive Developmental Disorder.
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