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Autism is primarily a pervasive developmental disorder that was formerly considered as a disorder separately classified from similar disorders such as Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) reclassifies autism as part of a larger group comprised of the aforementioned disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2004).
The hallmarks of this disorder have many presentations, but generally follow a pattern of slow attainment of developmental milestones; a normal pace followed by a gradual slowing and stops in attaining milestones or losing milestones altogether (NIMH, 2004). The milestones lost or not achieved fall within the social and language domains, specifically those pertaining to social exchange and verbal and nonverbal communication. Common social exchanges observed as early as infancy such as a social smile, eye contact, reactivity to human touch, turning to source when name is called or gesturing may be absent or regress at a later time after manifestation, with the child presenting as aloof and unresponsive to human touch such as hugging and cuddling. Normal developing language skills such as cooing and babbling, progressive phoneme formation, their integration into larger groups to forming of words by about 12-16 months and the combination of words into two-word phrases by age 2 do not progress normally and follow one of the progression patterns seen with social exchanges (NIMH, 2004). Among the peculiar hallmarks of the disorder (but by no means solely diagnostic) are bizarre behavior, the lack of eye contact, preoccupation with unusual aspects of toys or objects (e.g. the wheels of toy cars) to which he may show an unusually strong affinity to, repetitive, ritualistic behavior and routines and the strong need for an unaltered environment. Their rare interaction...