Autism, or autistic disorder, is one of the most-studied developmental disorders having first been identified back in the 1940s. At that time, it was thought to be a mental illness or the result of poor parenting. Now researchers know that like many learning disabilities and developmental disorders, autism has a biological and neurological basis.

There are five areas of development usually affected, in varying degrees, in children with autism spectrum disorders:

  • Delays in understanding social relationships
  • Inconsistent patterns in sensory responses
  • Uneven patterns of intellectual functioning
  • Marked restriction of activities and interests
  • Delays in verbal language development

Many children with autism may also show signs of mental retardation. Those with IQ’s in the normal range are identified as “high-functioning autistic.” According to leading AS researcher Simon Baron Cohen, “By convention, if an individual with autism has an IQ in the normal range (or above), they are said to have ‘high-functioning autism’ (HFA). If an individual meets all of the criteria for HFA except communicative abnormality/history of language delay, they are said to have Asperger’s syndrome.”