Basics
July 15, 2020

Pranav Harish

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Complexity and Types

People have a preconceived notion about autism in their minds. Autism is a broad diagnosis that can affect social, communication, behavior, and motor skills.

People with autism can have a high IQ or be mentally challenged, can be talkative or silent, and organized or disorganized. That is why autism is a "spectrum" disorder.

Up until 2013, the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4) described 5 different types of autism, namely:

  1. Asperger Syndrome
  2. Autistic Disorder
  3. Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
  4. Childhood Disintegrative Syndrome
  5. Rett Syndrome

However, these types were quite confusing. They were difficult to diagnose as the doctors had their own idea of what the diagnoses are, and what the symptoms of autism may look like.

In 2013 the DSM-5 was published. It stated that everyone with autism, irrespective of the symptoms - mild, moderate, and severe - is categorized under a single diagnosis called autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

But, practitioners and doctors even now use the older terms to diagnose and differentiate between the different conditions under ASD.

So, in the complex world of autisms, here are the different types:

Asperger Syndrome

People with Asperger syndrome are said to be high-functioning. They face no problems in learning a language at the right stage of development, but they have difficulty in social communication.

Some have above-average or high intelligence with strong verbal skills. People with Asperger show sensory challenges like high sensitivity.

Autistic Disorder

Also known as Kanner's syndrome, children with the autistic disorder show severe symptoms such as:

  • no eye contact
  • difficulty in understanding and communicating with others
  • in need of a strict routine and schedule
  • hypersensitivity
  • delay in learning a language
  • aggressive behaviors.

They tend to communicate via signs, spelling boards, and picture boards. They are intellectually disabled and tend to keep to themselves by avoiding social contact.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)

This is a mild form of autism in which children show a delay in development and social communication. However, in this case, children cope with the challenges much easier when compared to the ones with autistic disorder.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

Also called atypical autism, PDD-NOS describes those people who have autism-like symptoms but do not necessarily have autism spectrum disorder. The symptoms might range from mild to severe.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)

Children with this type of autism show normal development in the first two years of their life, but they show regression suddenly. CDD is quite confusing due to the sudden change in behavior.

Rett Syndrome

Rett Syndrome only affects girls once they are six months old. It causes symptoms like:

  • difficulty breathing
  • teeth grinding
  • repetitive hand waving
  • delayed speech and growth
  • social challenges
  • mental challenges
  • problems in using their hands usefully

However, it is the only condition in ASD that can be medically diagnosed. But, it is no longer considered an ASD as it is known to be caused by a genetic mutation.

Each individual on the autism spectrum is unique. DSM-5 states that ASD is of three levels - Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 - depending on the severity of the symptoms.

If you suspect your child or anyone you know to have ASD or autism-like symptoms, then seek help. An assessment by a therapist will help to recognize the symptoms and pinpoint the exact diagnosis.

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