au·​tism | \ ˈȯ-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce autism (audio) \

Definition of autism

: a variable developmental disorder that appears by age three and is characterized especially by difficulties in forming and maintaining social relationships, by impairment of the ability to communicate verbally or nonverbally, and by repetitive behavior patterns and restricted interests and activities … the chief diagnostic signs of autism are social isolation, lack of eye contact, poor language capacity and absence of empathy …— Vilayanur S. Ramachandran et al.

called also autistic disorder

— see autism spectrum disorder

Examples of autism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Both are using their degrees to further their work with children with autism. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Second eucalyptus tree cut down next to historic Balboa Park theater," 3 July 2019 Children with disabilities are heavily affected, and children with autism are 160 times more likely to drown than other children. Lydia Gerike,, "With swimming season here and a warm holiday weekend ahead, here’s what experts recommend to keep kids from drowning," 3 July 2019 Whether to disclose their autism or Tourette’s in an interview is a quandary with no clear answer. Caryn M. Sullivan, Twin Cities, "Caryn M. Sullivan: For would-be employees and amenable employers, opportunity for a happy dance," 23 June 2019 Big Park's closure and affordable housing issues have been particularly difficult for Thea Sanderson-Jones, the parent of a 10-year-old with autism. Lily Altavena, azcentral, "Squeezed by declining enrollment, Arizona's rural schools are suffering," 12 June 2019 The staff has also been trained to work with children with autism. Amy Schwabe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sensory friendly special events and activities in and around Milwaukee," 11 June 2019 Acting, at least, is solid from the ensemble cast, which is a mixture of professionals and non-professionals and which includes a few people with autism as well. Boyd Van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Specials' ('Hors normes'): Film Review | Cannes 2019," 7 June 2019 State sued over vaccine data: The parents of a 7-year-old who attends a private school in Meriden that teaches children on the autism spectrum are suing the state Department of Public Health over the release of school-by-school vaccination data. Russell Blair,, "Capitol Week in Review: Gov. Ned Lamont offers a tax cut for tolls, Nancy Pelosi comes to Hartford," 21 June 2019 Last year, revelations of Hans Asperger’s Nazi connections prompted some to question the clinical significance of his findings on Asperger’s syndrome, as well as the use of the term to describe certain individuals on the autism spectrum. Audrey Farley, Longreads, "We Still Don’t Know How to Navigate the Cultural Legacy of Eugenics," 20 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'autism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of autism

1944, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for autism

see aut-

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Last Updated

8 Jul 2019

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The first known use of autism was in 1944

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au·​tism | \ ˈȯ-ˌtiz-əm How to pronounce autism (audio) \

Medical Definition of autism

: a developmental disorder that appears by age three and that is variable in expression but is recognized and diagnosed by impairment of the ability to form normal social relationships, by impairment of the ability to communicate with others, and by stereotyped behavior patterns especially as exhibited by a preoccupation with repetitive activities of restricted focus rather than with flexible and imaginative ones But more than 60 years after it was first identified, autism remains mystifying and stubbornly difficult to treat. About the only thing parents, doctors and policy makers agree on is that the best chance for autistic children to develop social and language skills is to enroll them in some type of intensive behavioral therapy.— Benedict Carey, The New York Times, 27 Dec. 2004 Although the chief diagnostic signs of autism are social isolation, lack of eye contact, poor language capacity and absence of empathy, other less well known symptoms are commonly evident. Many people with autism have problems understanding metaphors, sometimes interpreting them literally. They also have difficulty miming other people's actions.— Vilayanur S. Ramachandran et al., Scientific American, November 2006 In approximately 10% of patients, autism can be explained by genetic syndromes and known chromosomal anomalies …— Lauren A Weiss et al., The New England Journal of Medicine, 14 Feb. 2008

called also autistic disorder

— see autism spectrum disorder

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More from Merriam-Webster on autism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with autism

Spanish Central: Translation of autism

Nglish: Translation of autism for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about autism

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