top of page

What is Autism Spectrum Condition?

Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) is a neurodevelopmental condition which impacts social interaction and communication, includ repetitive patterns of behaviors and interests, along with a generally atypical cognition. The DSM-5, otherwise known as the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, defines the characteristics of ASC under autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, the neurodiversity framework, which is discussed in the “Language and Rhetoric About ASC” section, utilizes the word “condition” instead.Due to the development of autism spectrum condition, there are many circumstances, functions, and abilities that are considered for diagnosis, listed below in the “Strengths and Challenges” section. Developing programs and inclusive environments for autistic students revolves around flexible approaches for meeting educational and social needs for students in special education programs, otherwise known as universal design for learning (UDL). Children with ASC are able to live productive and positive lives if surrounded by support and inclusive environments to foster happiness and communication skills; more accurately, children on the autism spectrum have the right to a positive life. This training guide discusses valuable information for caregivers, family, educators, and anyone who may be even remotely involved with autistic children in order to provide stronger support systems.

What are the origins of autism over time?

Verhoeff distinguishes three separate phases in the understanding and history of autism, beginning from the diagnostic introduction by Leo Kanner at Johns Hopkins University in 1943.

Initially, after the identification and categorization of autistic thinking by Leo Kanner, autism was first illustrated by “early infantile autism”. Kanner investigated a German child named Donald who presented “no apparent affection” and “was happiest when left alone.” The original paper’s definition explained that the symptoms displayed included a focus on self-isolation and excessive need for routines, specifically unable to provide emotional response. Early infantile autism was categorized by those symptoms for close to two decades.

The second phase focuses on the changes in perception of autism, especially concerning linguistic and cognitive differences. Empirical analyses from Lockyer and Rutter showed that as an autistic child matured, the symptoms of self-isolation decreased, while deficits in language and sensory stimuli continued to exist. The struggles of perceiving stimuli were a prerequisite for Kanner’s claims of self-isolation.

Lastly, the most recent shift categorized by Verhoeff is the development of the DSM, in their earlier editions. The analysis of Wing and Gould, which was primarily focused on the concerns of social interaction and communication, seemed more prevalent in case studies for autistic children. Wing’s analysis claimed that Asperger’s syndrome, a condition initially characterized by schizophrenic symptoms, was connected to Kanner’s autism hypothesis through the struggles of social interaction due to the environmental constructs ruling social behavior. These changes were marked rapidly in the DSM-III.

Wing’s analysis was corroborated by Happe in 2011, who claimed that the differences between Asperger’s and autism were too minor to distinguish separate conditions. Due to these inconsistencies with classifications by psychiatrists, the variations of autism are now referred to as the Autism Spectrum Condition, a single label which focuses on having the disorder or not, rather than the placement on the spectrum. Additionally, screening for autistic behaviors should be conducted if children exhibit neurodevelopmental delays. More information regarding the spectrum criteria are described in the “Strengths and Challenges” section below.

Diagnostic categories explain the symptoms, strengths, and criteria to identify autistic individuals. Theories think about the basis of the different characteristics and traits. There are a few major theories behind autism that affect the way caregivers and teachers provide for autistic children. Constable et al. outlines three specific psychological theories: impaired executive function, lack of mind theory, and weak coherence.














Impaired executive function is a focus on issues with organization, inhibition and impulse, and other tasks related to the integration of new information and sensory input related to the environment.

Theory of mind is related to the difference of recognition and intentions, with a specific difficulty in empathy, as identified in Baron-Cohen’s studies related to autism and weak theory of mind. Students may find it difficult to understand other’s experiences or actions, which has major implications for academic performance and social interaction.

Weak central coherence is related to the attention to detail while also being able to focus outward on the big picture. Students with autism can struggle with trying to expand their interest past small details within a plot or visual. Examples of students shown by Lord & Rhea specifically exemplified a larger vocabulary, but struggles to follow directions or comments.

bottom of page