Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), commonly referred to as "autism," is "a chronic disorder whose symptoms include failure to develop normal social relations with other people, impaired development of communicative ability, lack of imaginative ability, and repetitive, stereotyped movements" (Carlson, 2007, p. 594). Individuals with autism disorder have markedly different social and emotional actions and reactions than non-autistic individuals. For example, many autistic children do not seem to care whether or not they get attention from their parents. ASD also has an affect on IQ. While 30% of individuals with autism have an average or gifted IQ, 70% are considered mentally retarded (Sarason & Sarason, 2002, p. 507).
The term "autism" is derived from the Greek word "autos", which means "self". In the 1940s, Leo Kanner, a doctor at Johns Hopkins University, began using the term to describe children whose behavior was socially and emotionally withdrawn. From then until the 1960s, many researchers and therapists believed that autism and schizophrenia were linked disorders. Initial treatments for autism included the use of LSD, electric shock, and behavior change techniques, which regularly relied on punishment and pain to change behaviors (Hirsch, 2009). In order for an individual to be diagnosed with ASD, he or she must be several qualifications as stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). These include a qualitative impairment in social interaction and communication, restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviors, interests, and activities, and delays in functioning. Diagnosis also requires that Rett's Disorder and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder – which have similar symptoms – do not better account for the behaviors (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 75).
Initially, researchers believed that ASD in children was the result of living in a home with cold, insensitive parents.