Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

pp 318-321

Autistic Disorder

  • Fred R. VolkmarAffiliated withYale University


Childhood autism; Infantile autism; Kanner’s syndrome

Short Description/Definition

Autistic disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by marked problems in social interaction, communication/play, and a set of unusual behaviors related to difficulties in tolerating change in the environment. The condition is of early onset. In most cases, it appears to be congenital, but perhaps in 20% of cases, a period of normal development is observed. The condition always appears before 3 years of age.


Autism was first described by Leo Kanner in 1943 (Kanner, 1943). Early controversy centered around the idea that autism might be a form of schizophrenia, but several lines of evidence suggest this is not the case. Changes in approaches to the definition of autism have occurred over time. Currently, both the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV-TR) (World Health Organization, 2000) and International (ICD-10) (World ...

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