The term “autism” is a generalized term which falls inside a larger medical category oftentimes called “the 5 Pervasive Development Disorders”. Autism is the most common type of development disorder and can appear in a range of types and severity of condition. This has led to the term “Autism Spectrum Disorder” which can be often used to identify and discuss the differing types of autism. What this implies is that someone diagnosed as having autism will have one of several different types of autism which have features that are comparable in some respects and different in others.
Inside the Autism Spectrum Disorder there exists four subcategories of autism which are Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified or “PDD-NOS”. Seeing as each of these are types of autism they all share some general autism traits.
It is generally acknowledged that autism is related to the brain or what some are now calling “mindblindness”. At some point between birth and the first two-and-a-half years of age there’s a serious development problem inside the brain that prevents parts of the brain from functioning as one. As the child gets older they find it more and more difficult to communicate and connect to other people around them in what we deem a normal and socially acceptable manner. Dependant upon how bad the brain disorder was early on in life will determine how serious the type of autism is when the child becomes older.
What we have discussed thus far has told us that all types of autism are linked to a condition within the brain. Now we will look at how each of the types of autism are different.
1. Asperger Syndrome (AS)
indicated by impaired speech and communication skills
restrictive patterns in the manner the individual behaves and thinks
Children with Asperger Syndrome often exhibit very obsessive behavior towards a single subject or topic and refuse to focus on anything else. This makes it very difficult for them to socialize with others, especially their peer group and they find it hard to talk and interact normally. Also very common is delayed learning when it comes to motor skills like riding a bike, being able to catch a ball or even climbing on playground equipment. The child is usually thought of as being clumsy and inept.
2. Rett Syndrome
symptoms tend to be noticed earlier on in a child’s life than other types of autism
generally is encountered only in girls and unexpectedly begins to surface some six to eighteen months after a normal infant development pattern
A baby with Rett Syndrome exhibits a slow down or oftentimes even a loss of customary development skills that were already developed before Rett Syndrome. Added signs of this infant disorder may include problems learning to walk, increased delay in learning basic motor skills and often there is a lessening in skull growth rate.
3. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)
less common type of autism
occurs later than other types of autism, not until around age 3 or four
frequently a dramatic loss of social, communication and other kinds of skills
A child afflicted with CDD generally has demonstrated normal development well beyond that phase where other types of autism may become evident. Everything appears fine, until unexpectedly around the ages of 3 or 4 the child in a short time begins to have difficulty speaking normally, doing social activities with others and begins to fall behind in normal skill development for their age group. In very severe cases this may even lead to mental retardation.
4. Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
generally the mildest type of autism and is usually diagnosed around 4 years old
core features are problems with social interaction and communication
A child with PDD-NOS enjoys the company of other people but has a difficult time reacting appropriately and making genuine connections with their friends. For example they find it difficult to relate to the feelings of others, and as such would not know how to appriopriately react if someone is laughing or crying. Areas of difficulty with respect to communicating with other people include a restricted vocabulary, repetitive language, narrow interests and poor nonverbal communication.
As you can see the definition of autism just isn’t so simple as many people presume it to be. Differing autism features have given rise to a number of different types of autism that will impinge on children and adults in a wide range of ways, often depending upon how severe the condition is for that person.
It is extremely important to understand that the above facts about autism, together with the types of autism discussed, are merely general guidelines and are in no way intended to be a medical diagnosis. If you believe that your son or daughter may have autism, then please seek out medical advice from a physician.
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