AUTISM: A Pervasive Developmental/Spectrum Disorder.
Autism or PPD (pervasive developmental disorder) is defined by the Columbia encyclopedia as a rare neurodevelopment disorder characterized by the inability to relate to and perceive the environment in a realistic manner. The onset of the disorder is in infancy or early childhood, generally before the age of thirty months, and males are affected four times as often as females. Symptoms include impairment in social interaction, fixation on inanimate objects, inability to communicate normally, and resistance to changes in daily routine (1). .
Diagnosing Autism is based on four characteristics: difficulty with language, abnormal responses to sensory stimuli, resistance to change and difficulty with social interaction. "Other characteristics of autism may include: making the same repetitive motion for hours, repeating a sound or phrase, inability to hold a conversation, practicing unusual play patterns, and extreme sensitivity to sound and touch" (Riccio, 1999). Autistics can exhibit any combination of these characteristics in any degree. That is why autism is referred to as a "spectrum" disorder, because at one end of the disorder a child may be inflicted with some symptoms, while at the opposite end a child may be inflicted with multiple symptoms with many areas in between. Children who display few symptoms may be characterized as "mildly autistic". .
In 1943, a man by the name of Leo Kanner formally identified autism; he labeled the disorder "autistic disturbance of affective contact". Autism was first described in America, officially, in 1980 with the publication of DSMIII (Peter E. Tanguay; Julia Robertson; Ann Derrick, 1980, p.1). There was much confusion, both before and after Kanner's description, regarding the continuity of autism with schizophrenia and other then-recognized forms of psychosis (Lippcott/Williams & Wilkins, 1999 p.