Linking families and individuals with autism to services, care, support and learning resources for more than 10 years.

DSM-IV Criteria for an Autism Diagnosis


Most parents, when their child is diagnosed with autism, place much emphasis on the type of diagnosis given. There are many diagnoses that are under the autism spectrum disorder “umbrella” such as PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), high functioning autism, autism and asperger syndrome. Don’t place too much emphasis on the diagnosis that is given. A child who is given a diagnosis of PDD-NOS and a child given the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, are often indistinguishable.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a collection of symptoms, and it depends upon the degree to which those symptoms exhibit themselves as to which diagnosis is given. Remember — there is no blood test for autism — the diagnosis is completely the subjective opinion of the diagnostic physician. If your child receives a diagnosis of autism, don’t assume that he or she is “worse off” than someone with a diagnosis of PDD-NOS, or that your child is more severe. That is simply untrue.

Most children are diagnosed between the ages of 2-1/2 to 5 years of age. That’s a pretty young age. Your child may surprise you, so don’t limit your expectations of your child based on the type of diagnosis given.

If you have a child who was just diagnosed, and need some support, please email us. We are more than happy to help, and we’ll even find a mentor for you in your area.

DSM-IV Criteria for an Autism Diagnosis:


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 impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial
expression, body posture, 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 to other people)

d) lack of social or emotional reciprocity ( note: in the description, it gives the following as
examples: not actively participating in simple social play or games, preferring solitary activities,
or involving others in activities only as tools or “mechanical” aids )

(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 two 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

(3) symbolic or imaginative play

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