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 Eliza had autism and was nonverbal, and went missing early Tuesday afternoon during the peak of the storm, Towamencin Township Chief of Police Tim Dickinson said during a press conference. Jason Duaine Hahn,, "Tropical Storm Isaias Leaves At Least 8 People — Including 5-Year-Old Girl — Dead," 5 Aug. 2020 Meagan Booth, 40, has two children on the autism spectrum — 7-year-old Lana and 5-year-old Logan. Brieanna J. Frank, The Arizona Republic, "Enchanted Chapters, bookstore catering to disability community, closing after 10 months," 12 July 2020 For Terranova, a mother of three whose 10-year-old son is on the autism spectrum, helping her two elementary-age boys learn online in the spring was difficult. Emily Goodykoontz, Anchorage Daily News, "Some in-person learning, but likely online classwork: What parents might expect from Anchorage School District this fall," 9 July 2020 There is a common misconception that people on the autism spectrum are not interested in relationships or romance. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "See the trailer for Love on the Spectrum, Netflix docu-series about dating on the autism spectrum," 7 July 2020 De Simone has two children with special needs -- Sebastian, 17, is on the autism spectrum, and Ben, 21, has lissencephaly, which is a brain disorder. Laura Jarrett, CNN, "Parents of teens with special needs find themselves alone in Covid-19 lockdown," 6 July 2020 Police investigated and learned that the suspect has autism and was not culpable. cleveland, "Man, 66, cited in road rage incident involving another man, 74: Solon Police Blotter," 2 July 2020 One has attention deficit disorder and the other has autism, and both rely heavily on social and emotional supports at school. Erin Richards, USA TODAY, "Kids' mental health can struggle during online school. Here's how teachers are planning ahead.," 9 Apr. 2020 Other conditions that could make wearing a mask difficult could include people who have post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety or claustrophobia, or someone with autism who is sensitive to touch and texture. Dallas News, "Masks are now required in Texas. What if you can’t wear one because of a medical condition?," 5 July 2020

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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Time Traveler for autism

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The first known use of autism was in 1944

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Statistics for autism

Last Updated

12 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Autism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Aug. 2020.

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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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Spanish Central: Translation of autism

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

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