DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic Criteria for Autistic Disorder

Please remember that I post diagnostic criteria here because it is interesting to know what kinds of behaviors can get you what kinds of diagnoses, not so you can diagnose yourself, anyone in your family, or any of your friends. You just cannot be objective enough and it often leads to people walking around thinking they have Mental Disorders that they do not have. This is especially not good if that person is a child.

This may be especially true for Autism-Spectrum Disorders, which require a team of experts collaborating with the family to make a good diagnosis, including ideally a developmental pediatrician, a psychologist, a social worker, a speech language specialist, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist. Also maybe a family advocate and an early interventionist.  And that’s just for a medical diagnosis. It varies by state, but often educational eligibility requires, additionally, a school psychologist, a behavior specialist, and an autism specialist.

Notice in the criteria below that diagnosis is made based on social problems, language problems, and repetitive/stereotyped behaviors. Other qualities that we may associate with Autism, such as pickiness about food or other things, sensitivity to noise or textures, visual processing problems, being easily upset, self-harming behaviors, and “splinter skills” are not part of a diagnosis for Autistic Disorder. Even with extreme versions of those qualities, you do not an AD diagnosis without fitting the criteria below.

And here are the criteria, word for word from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (p. 75):

Diagnostic criteria for 299.00 Autistic Disorder

A. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):

(1) qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(a) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.

(b) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

(c) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)

(d) lack of social or emotional reciprocity

(2) qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)

(b) in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others

(c) stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language

(d) lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level

(3) restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus

(b) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

(c) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)

(d) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play.

C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett’s Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, April 4, 2011.]

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