Autism spectrum disorders are a group of separate syndromes with overlapping characteristics, most notably in the areas of social interaction, communication, and distinctive behavioral characteristics.

In the classification scheme of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association (1994), the disorders are classified under the umbrella term, pervasive developmental disorders. This review examines the disorders as described in the DSM-IV. The disorders reviewed are:

  • Autism
  • Asperger's disorder
  • Rett's disorder
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified

A brief description is provided for each of these disorders along with the possible etiology, diagnostic criteria, assessment techniques, current treatment options, and prognosis.


Autism is a disorder that is first diagnosed in childhood. Children with autism demonstrate qualitative deficits in their social interaction with others—in communication and ...

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