The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) identifies Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as a delay or deficit in social and communication skills as well as stereotyped and/or repetitive behavior. Individuals diagnosed with ASD will have delays or deficits in all the areas, however, these will vary from person to person, hence the name autism "spectrum".
Deficits in social skills may include an unwillingness to engage in parallel or reciprocal play with others, no or limited eye contact with others, and limited to no reciprocity demonstrated with regard to emotion or affect.
Deficits in communication skills may include little to no verbal language present, limited ability to engage in reciprocal conversation, and limited to no understanding of verbal and non-verbal communicative attempts.
Stereotyped and/or repetitive behavior can include an unwillingness to stray from a particular routine or established pattern, engaging in repetitive motor movements or demonstrating rigidity in play with objects (i.e., spinning the wheels on a car repeatedly, lining objects up in a specific order, etc.) This can also include a stronger than average fixation in specific interests.
Individuals who are diagnosed with ASD experience deficits in all three areas to varying degrees, which are categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. Symptoms of ASD must have been present from an early age, and must interfere with the individuals ability to thrive in social, occupational, or other relevant areas of functioning.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a life-long diagnosis, which currently has no cure. However, individuals are able to make tremendous gains, particularly when utilizing Early Intensive Behavior Intervention (EIBI).