Autism and several other related disorders are grouped
under the heading of
autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), once known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs). These
disorders all have similar symptoms.
Also, there are several medical conditions that can be
confused with autism because of similar symptoms. Some of these medical
conditions can occur along with autism but are not classified as ASDs. They
Intellectual disability. People with severe
intellectual disabilities may have many behaviors similar to those of autism but are
not necessarily autistic. People who are autistic can also be intellectually disabled.
Schizophrenia. When schizophrenia
develops in childhood, which is rare, it can be confused with
Selective mutism. In selective mutism, a child is able to
speak in some situations but unable to speak (is mute) in
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Some children with obsessive-compulsive disorder, like those with autism, have
unusual interests and repetitive behaviors. But unlike children with autism, children with
OCD are able to develop social and communication skills.
attachment disorder. In this disorder, there is usually a history of severe
neglect. Language and social skills usually begin to develop after a child is
given love and attention.
Avoidant personality disorder. This
disorder is characterized by anxiety in dealing with social situations.
Specific diagnostic guidelines are used to distinguish autism from
other conditions.1 Although other ASDs and
certain medical conditions share some symptoms, they do not meet all
of the diagnostic criteria for autism.
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Neurodevelopmental disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed., pp. 31–86. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Primary Medical Reviewer
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Fred Volkmar, MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Current as of
January 28, 2014
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
January 28, 2014
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