Characteristics and symptoms in patients with autism

Characteristics and symptoms in patients with autism – Tips from Other Journals

Kathryn M. Andolsek

In the United States, autism may affect up to 115,000 children between one and 15 years of age, but its prevalence in adults is uncertain. Classic autism is one of a group of development disorders in which a wide variety of behaviors and activities are demonstrated that collectively are known as pervasive development disorder (see the accompanying table on criteria for autistic disorder). Certain biologic conditions and/or genetic factors appear to be associated with the development of autism, but no specific cause has been identified. Multiple members of a family may be affected, but currently no common genetic defect is observable in affected children. Rapin reviewed the many manifestations of autism, principal symptoms, therapies and prognosis.

Criteria for Autistic Disorder(*)

A total of six or more manifestations from 1, 2 and 3


1 . Qualitative impairment of social interaction (at least two


a. Marked impairment in the use of multiple types of nonverbal

behavior such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures

and gestures to regulate social interactions;

b. Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to

development level;

c. Lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests or

achievements with other people (e.g., by lack of showing, bringing

or pointing out objects of interest); and

d. Lack of social or emotional reciprocity.

2. Qualitative impairment of communication (at least one


a. Delay in, or lack of, development of spoken language (not

accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes

of communication such as gestures or mime);

b. In individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the

ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others;

c. Stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic

language; and

d. Lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social

imitative play appropriate to development level.

3. Restrictive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and

activities (at least one behavior manifestation)

a. Encompassing preoccupation with one or more restricted,

repetitive and stereotyped patterns of interest that is abnormal

either in intensity or focus;

b. Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional

routines or rituals;

c. Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or

finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements); and

d. Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.

Delays or abnormal functioning, with onset before the age of three

years, in at least one of the following areas:

Social interaction;

Language as used in social communication; and

Symbolic or imaginative play.

A determination that Rett’s disorder or childhood disintegrative

disorder does not account better for the observed symptoms.

COPYRIGHT 1998 American Academy of Family Physicians

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group