Behavioral syndrome

  • Behavioral syndrome
    • The definition is from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV-TR, and is under revision for the forthcoming DSM-V.
    • The behaviors that define autism present differently across the population of people with autism – that is, behavior is variable in autism, even while everyone meets the diagnostic criteria.
  • What is the difference between saying “disorder” and saying “syndrome”?
    • Syndrome: a group of signs and symptoms that, when they occur together, suggest the present of a disease, disorder or condition
    • Disorder: a medical condition involving a disturbance to the usual functioning of the mind or body
  • How are behaviors measured?
  • How is the “behavioral syndrome” definition of autism used to structure how autism is defined
  • What causes the behaviors of autism?
    • Various models of what might cause these behaviors are addressed in the section of this website “What causes autism?”

Some open issues:

  • What common features does the behavioral definition of autism leave out?
    • Problems like anxiety and sensory processing differences are almost universal in autism
    • Sleep disturbance is extremely common
    • Medical problems affect many, depending on how you measure them
  • While autism is presently defined behaviorally, will there ever be a biological or medical definition of autism?
    • At present there are no biological or medical features that have been identified in every individual with autism.  It may be that autistic behaviors are features that emerge from a variety of underlying issues.
    • Some people expect that brain function or electrophysiological signatures of autism may be discovered, but although a few papers have been published suggesting that a signature has been identified there is no consensus on the merits of any such signature..
    • Many people think that biological and/or medical features may come to define certain subgroups of autism, but these will probably not include everyone who meets behavioral criteria, because autism is now usually thought to be “heterogeneous.”  At present we have no way of saying whether there is any universal biological or medical feature.


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