Criteria for Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Impaired Social Interaction:

  • Poor use and interpretation of nonverbal behaviors such as eye contact, facial expression, body posture, and gestures that regulate social interaction
  • Failure to develop age-appropriate peer relationships
  • Lack of social or emotional reciprocity, such as lack of spontaneous sharing of enjoyment, interests, or achievement with other people

Repetitive or stereotyped behavior, interests, activities (shows at least two):

  • Pre-occupation with one or more patterns of interest or behavior that is abnormal in intensity or focus (hyper-focused on one particular topic)
  • Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals (difficulty with spontaneous changes in routines)
  • Motor mannerisms involving hands or fingers or whole-body movements (a need to calm self by repeatedly moving particular body parts, i.e. hand flapping)
  • Unusual sensitivity to sensory input, such as adverse response to sounds, lights, textures and/or smells

Severity level, from mild to severe, is based on the level of deficits in social communication, verbal communication and restricted, repetitive behaviors.

By the time a person with mild ASD reaches adulthood, he or she is usually aware of associated problems and may have acquired some compensation strategies. Impaired social skills and dependence on routines may still produce anxiety, but typically the person can accomplish academic goals well.

Generally, individuals diagnosed with severe ASD demonstrate cognitive deficiencies and limited verbal skills; thus, few will appear in adult learning classrooms.