Today, common usage of the term autism refers to the following subset of clinical diagnoses falling under the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, fourth edition, revised (American Psychiatric Association) heading of Pervasive Developmental Disorders: autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). However, some still reserve usage of the term autism to refer only to the diagnosis of autistic disorder. Because of the potential for confusion, most epidemiologists now prefer to use the term autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to refer to the group of three diagnoses collectively and rely on the specific DSM-IV-R term when referring to a specific diagnosis. The use of the term spectrum, however, should not be taken to imply that this is one etiology with gradations of severity. ...

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