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Introduction to Autism
January 24, 2006
Pat Mirenda, Ph.D.
University of British Columbia
What is Autism?
Autism is one a group of disorders that
are known, collectively, as the pervasive
developmental disorders (PDDs)
The PDDs constitute the “autism
spectrum,” as described in the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV-TR, 2000)
The Autism Spectrum/PDDs
autistic disorder (autism)
Rett’s disorder
childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD)
Asperger’s disorder
pervasive developmental disorder not
otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) or atypical
Recent research suggests that ASDs
occur in approximately 1/150 children
(Fombonne, 1999)
4-5 times more prevalent in males
We used to think that most individuals
with autism also had intellectual disability,
but current research suggests that this is
not the case
NOT caused by emotional abuse or
neglect, or rejection by parents (mothers)
Clear genetic component, with multiple
interacting genes (2-10)
Prenatal central nervous system damage
Neurochemical component
We still don’t understand the cause(s)
enough to prevent or treat it medically
Diagnostic Criteria (2000)
Child must have at least 6/12 possible
symptoms to have autism; fewer
constitutes PDD-NOS
Symptoms must occur across three
impairments in social interaction
impairments in communication
restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped
patterns of behaviour, interests, or activity
Additional Criteria
Must have delays or abnormal functioning
prior to age 3 in at least one of the
following areas:
social interaction
language used in social communication
symbolic or imaginative play
Temple Grandin, Animal
Scientist, Architect
Anthony Crudale,
Marathon Runner
Jessica Park,
Artist (
Tito Mukhopadhyay,
Poet (
Individuals with Advanced
Common problems:
 Literal interpretation of others’ language
 Unusual topical interests and speech patterns
 High stress/anxiety in communication
contexts, leading to communication
 Difficulty understanding when to talk, what to
talk about, etc. in conversations