It is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder (and therefore with onset in early childhood) in which there is a deficit in social interaction and communication (that is, the ability to interact with others and share thoughts and feelings), as well as such as patterns of behavior, interests, or activities that are restrictive and repetitive. Symptoms are usually detected from 12-24 months of life.
These include obsolete terms such as Asperger Syndrome, generalized autism or childhood disintegrative disorder.
We speak of “spectrum” because no two cases are the same and the manifestations vary greatly depending on the severity, the level of intellectual and linguistic development, and the age of the subject. During infancy, they may show strange play patterns (for example, lining up toys for hours), delayed language onset, or disinterest in interacting with other people, to the point that parents sometimes think their child has a hearing problem. In adult life, many use compensation and coping strategies to hide their difficulties in public, but suffer the stress of the effort to maintain an acceptable social facade, and may present symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Although these disorders can occur in isolation, it is not uncommon for the person to also have other neurodevelopmental disorders (such as intellectual disability, language disorders, or ADHD). However, there are also cases of people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and high intellectual abilities.
Finally, it should not be forgotten that ASD (autism spectrum disorder) is not a degenerative disorder, and it is normal for learning and compensation to continue throughout life.