PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Current revision of the two major psychiatric classification systems has elicited particular comment on neurodevelopmental disorders, which have seen increased provision of specialist clinical services, user group activity, fictional and biographical accounts, and research. Philosophical scrutiny of autism research and literature provides an additional perspective. RECENT FINDINGS: Neurodevelopmental disorders show considerable overlap neuropsychologically, physiologically and genetically. They overlap diagnostically with schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety and depression. Of the two main diagnostic groups, there is more evidence of change with maturation in autism spectrum disorder than attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Interventions should combine cognitive, affective and embodied aspects of these disorders, and encompass the individual and their social environment. There is considerable evidence of the toll that caring for people with neurodevelopmental disorders exerts on parents. SUMMARY: Neurodevelopmental disorders are multifaceted: research addressed to connection rather than further Balkanization is more likely to be fruitful. Clinicians should consider which facets are displayed symptomatically to enable people to grow through rather than surrender to their impairments. Social scaffolding optimizes functional well being. Future research should take into account the tensions in the relationship between research and user groups, and examine the experiences of adults and of the spouses and partners of those affected.