2.5 Section summary
Diagnosis is a complex process that plays an important role in identifying individual therapeutic and educational needs, and in placing theoretical research on a sound footing.
The diagnostic approach involves the description of autism in terms of symptoms, and is primarily focused at the level of observable behaviour.
The characteristics of ASDs are summarised within formal systems of diagnostic criteria, such as the DSM-IV-TR™ and the ICD-10.
For a diagnosis of classic autism, a person must show a specified number and pattern of difficulties in each of the triad areas, and certain key difficulties must have appeared before 36 months.
Many people with autism have additional cognitive difficulties, while some have special skills, and a few have outstanding talents.
The diagnostic approach has theoretical and practical benefits, but also reflects ethical issues that are difficult to resolve.