CHICAGO (AP) — Here is how the definition of autism has changed:
The third edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published in 1980, for the first time classified a distinct disorder called "infantile autism."
A 1987 update of the DSM manual introduced the term "autistic disorder" and grouped infantile autism in this category along with childhood-onset pervasive developmental disorder, which described symptoms similar to those of autism but less severe in some cases, not all beginning in infancy.
In 1991, the U.S. Department of Education made autism a separate category for special education services offered at public schools. Previously it had been lumped in the category "other health impairments."
A 1994 update of the DSM manual lumps autism under a broad category called "Pervasive Developmental Disorders," which some refer to as "autism spectrum disorders." These include ailments such as Asperger's Disorder, sometimes called high-functioning autism; Rett's Disorder, a more severe form affecting only girls; and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, a loss of previously learned abilities such as language and motor skills by age 10.