Autism Types

The phrase autism types is a bit misleading. Autism is commonly used interchangeable with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), a category of brain disorders that affect the way people speak, socialize, play and react to their environment. In fact, autism is one of the five categories under PDD.

Below are common definitions and characteristics of these five disorders, often referred to as the five autism types.

1. Classic autism is the most severe form of autism. It usually becomes evident in a child before 36 months of age, with the most common age of recognition being about 18 months old.

The classic characteristics are poor eye contact, pervasive ignoring, language delay, severe impairment in speech, communication, or social interaction. Many will be completely non-verbal and "in their own world." Many people in this classification were originally thought to be mentally challenged but recent findings indicate this is not true.

Just because someone may not do well on a standardized IQ test does not mean they are mentally retarded. All it means is that they cannot do well on a standardized IQ test. The alternative processes in the mind of an autistic individual may not be adaptable to understanding a standardized IQ test.

2. Asperger's Syndrome is often referred to as high functioning autism. People with Asperger's can be socially awkward, may not understand conventional social rules, or may appear to show a lack of empathy. They may make limited eye contact, seem to be unengaged in a conversation and not understand body language. They also have average or above-average intelligence.

These are people with a form of autism that affects language less, yet there are difficulties with appropriate speech and communicative development. They may do very well academically, have a superior memory for "unimportant" details, and may talk repetitively about a certain topic without understanding that it may be boring to others.

Often, the "amount" of memory of these individuals is incredible and one may expect different degrees of impairments with Asperger's syndrome. Many people with this condition remain undiagnosed because of their ability to compensate with their memory or excellent academic abilities, yet they are considered by others to be "socially inept," "weird," "nerds," "bizarre," "eccentric," etc. See this link for more information on asperger syndrome details.

3. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is a pervasive developmental disorder that develops in children who previously seemed perfectly normal. Sometime between ages 2 and 4, these children seem to regress and develop some autistic features associated with a severe functional impairment. They stop talking, lose potty-training skills and stop socializing. They can stop playing, lose motor skills and fail to make friends.

These children must be thoroughly evaluated for the possibility of the development of seizures, affecting the speech areas of the brain, or Landau Kleffner syndrome (acquired epileptiform aphrasia), where seizure activity "robs" the brain from previously acquired speech.

4. Rett Syndrome is a condition that usually affects girls and is marked by poor head growth. These are girls who develop normally until 6 to 18 months of age and then regress. The head size seems to stop growing from the time of the observed regression.

People with this disorder have poor verbal and social skills. They have repetitive hand movements such as hand-wringing, excessive hand-washing and clapping. Mental retardation is common and often these individuals become profoundly disabled because of reduced muscle tone.

Rett Syndrome was first identified by the Australian, Dr Andreas Rett, in 1965. It is rarer than some of the types on the autism spectrum, affecting 1 in every 10,000 girls

5. Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified is also referred to as one of the high functioning autism types. It is a condition in which some — but not all — of the symptoms of classic autism and another pervasive developmental disorder are seen.

In these cases, there can be social and speech problems, as well as unusual sensitivities to specific sights and sounds. These children are more likely to be verbal and have some degree of verbal or non-verbal effective communication and a severe impairment in social interaction, communication, or repetitive stereotype behavior. PDD-NOS is reserved for children with a severe impairment who do not fully qualify for any other autism types, due to age of onset or combination of autistic features.

So . . . autism types and pervasive developmental disorders seem to often be used interchangeably. So lets go with the flow. Autism is much easier to say in daily conversation and more easily recognized by those not dealing with the spectrum on a personal level. See my personal opinions on the types of autism classifications.

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