Autism diagnostic criteria: DSM-5 | Autism Speaks (2024)

What are the DSM-5 autism diagnostic criteria?

Autism diagnostic criteria: DSM-5 | Autism Speaks (1)

TheAmerican Psychiatric Association(APA)Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM)is the handbook used by health care professionals in the United States and much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders.

In 2013, the APA released the fifth edition of DSM (DSM-5).It stated that an autism diagnosis requires persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following: deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, and in developing, maintaining and understanding relationships. The full text of the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for ASD is provided below with permission from the APA.

In 2022 the APA released theDSM-5-TR, a text revision to the DSM-5, which included a clarification to the autism diagnostic criteria. Specifically, the phrase “manifested by the following” was revised to read“as manifested by all of the following”to improve the intent and clarity of the wording.

Autism spectrum disorder DSM-5 diagnostic criteria: Full text

A. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive, see text):

  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalitiesineye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
  3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties insharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

Specifycurrent severity: Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior.

B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):

  1. Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypies, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
  2. Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns or verbal nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat food every day).
  3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g, strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circ*mscribed or perseverative interest).
  4. Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

Specifycurrent severity: Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.

C. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).

D. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.

E. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.

Note:Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder.


  • With or without accompanying intellectual impairment
  • With or without accompanying language impairment
    • (Coding note:Use additional code to identify the associated medical or genetic condition.)
  • Associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder
    • (Coding note:Use additional code[s] to identify the associated neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder[s].)
  • With catatonia
  • Associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor

Social (pragmatic) communication disorder DSM-5 diagnostic criteria

A. Persistent difficulties in the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication as manifested by all of the following:

  1. Deficits in using communication for social purposes, such as greeting and sharing information, in a manner that is appropriate for the social context.
  2. Impairment of the ability to change communication to match context or the needs of the listener, such as speaking differently in a classroom than on the playground, talking differently to a child than to an adult, and avoiding use of overly formal language.
  3. Difficulties following rules for conversation and storytelling, such as taking turns in conversation, rephrasing when misunderstood, and knowing how to use verbal and nonverbal signals to regulate interaction.
  4. Difficulties understanding what is not explicitly stated (e.g., making inferences) and nonliteral or ambiguous meanings of language (e.g., idioms, humor, metaphors, multiple meanings that depend on the context for interpretation).

B. The deficits result in functional limitations in effective communication, social participation, social relationships, academic achievement, or occupational performance, individually or in combination.

C.The onset of the symptoms is in the early developmental period (but deficits may not become fully manifest until social communication demands exceed limited capacities).

D. The symptoms are not attributable to another medical or neurological condition or to low abilities in the domains or word structure and grammar, and are not better explained by autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder), global developmental delay, or another mental disorder.

Related resources

  • Answers to frequently asked questions about DSM-5 criteria for autism
  • Take a two-minute screening of your child’s behavior
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Autism diagnostic criteria: DSM-5 | Autism Speaks (2024)


Autism diagnostic criteria: DSM-5 | Autism Speaks? ›

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Autistic people and their families criticized the piece for using inaccurate statistics and giving an unrepresentative and exaggerated depiction of the lives of autistic people and their families.

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Autism Speaks is dedicated to creating an inclusive world for all individuals with autism throughout their lifespan. We do this through advocacy, services, supports, research and innovation, and advances in care for autistic individuals and their families.

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There are other names for autism used by some people, such as: autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the medical name for autism. Asperger's (or Asperger syndrome) is used by some people to describe autistic people with average or above average intelligence.

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Autism is, for the most part, an inherited disorder: scientists estimate that up to 80 percent of a child's risk of developing it is determined by DNA.

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Environmental factors:

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What does DSM-5 criteria mean? ›

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses is the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association's professional reference book on mental health and brain-related conditions. Also known as the DSM-5, this is the main guide for mental health providers in the U.S.

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