When people refer to “Autism” today, they are usually talking about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which are a group of developmental disabilities that are caused by an abnormality in the brain. People with ASDs tend to have problems with social and communication skills.
The term autism came about decades before the disorder was recognized. Autismus, the New Latin word that autism is derived from, was coined by the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1910. He used the term as a descriptor of symptoms of schizophrenia. It was not until 1938 that this word was used in its current sense. Austrian Hans Asperger began using Bleuler's term "autistic psychopaths" when studying an autism spectrum disorder that was eventually named after him, Asperger's Disorder. This disorder was not classified as a different diagnosis from autism until 1994 (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Around the same time of Asperger's studies in Austria, American Leo Kanner (1943) began studying what he called "early infantile autism." He was also the first person to use the English word "autism" in 1943 when he identified 11 children with very similar behaviors.
People who have ASDs, like all people, differ greatly in the way they act and what they can do. No two people with ASDs will have the same symptoms. A symptom might be mild in one person and severe in another person.
Some examples of the types of problems and behaviors a child or adult with an ASD might have follow.
-- Social skills: People with ASDs might not interact with others the way most people do, or they might not be interested in other people at all. People with ASDs might not make eye contact and might just want to be alone. They might have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings. Children with ASDs might not like to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to. Some people with ASDs might not seem to notice when other people try to talk to...