What is Autism?
Autism is defined as a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.
The most well-known and evident manifestation of autism is failure to develop “normal” social relationships. It may be severe, as in children who spend most of their time rocking, twirling objects, or seemingly locked in their own world. It may be mild, as in individuals whose social behaviour is seen as ‘odd’, usually resulting in the individual being shunned or ignored by peers. The degree of verbal ability and social abilities will help to determine where the individual sits on the autism spectrum, and what label is attached: autism; Asperger’s syndrome; or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). Under the proposed DSM V these latter two labels will disappear.