When we’re trying to help people who have troubles due to autism spectrum disorders, one of the first challenges is definition: What does “autism” mean?
“Autism was and is still currently defined by behaviors,” Dana Alliance member Barry Gordon said, as researchers haven’t yet found solid biomarkers or other internal signals to identify it. “Whenever you read about autism, you might want to dig into what definitions they go into,” he said during a discussion at the American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) in Washington, DC, last week.
Even definitions by behavior vary. For example, fellow presenter Daniel Geschwind said, problems with language used to be part of the diagnosis, but now doctors and other caregivers usually only count differences in social behavior and the presence of “repetitive-restrictive” behavior (like hand-flapping or always needing to do activities in the same order).