Autism is a neurological disorder, NOT a mental health disorder......
DEAR MELISSA: My thanks to you -- and the many other readers -- who wrote to correct me..... autism is often considered a mental health disorder because it affects behavior, cognitive ability and social skills. However, it is genetically predetermined -- biologically based.
Experts clearly agree that autism is a neurologically based condition. The current criteria used to diagnose autism are contained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a publication of the American Psychiatric Association. However, this does not mean that autism is a "mental illness." Autism is most accurately described as a "neurodevelopmental disorder."
Most psychiatric conditions have at least some biological basis. Schizophrenia can also be considered a "neurodevelopmental disorder," though it has a later onset than autism. There is no clear dividing line between what is considered a neurological brain disease and what is considered a mental illness.