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Autism and autism spectrum disorder are terms for a group of disorders caused by problems with early-life brain development. Individuals with one of these conditions may have difficulty communicating or interacting socially. They may also have unusual patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.
Until recently, experts identified several different kinds of autism disorders, such as autism, Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. But with the publication in 2013 of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (known as DSM-5), all autism disorders were merged into the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
Symptoms of autism spectrum disorder may appear as early as the first year of life. But it may not be until a child is two or three years old—and sometimes older—that signs of autism become apparent.
Although there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, education, behavioral management, and medications may help individuals with this condition.
Some individuals with autism spectrum disorders are able to live independently. Others struggle to maintain normal social interactions, communication, and behaviors.