Different Types of Autism


Authored by Sandy Rothra in Diseases 
Published on 11-25-2009

We have been aware of the condition of autism for many years. Each child is affected differently. Some function at a very high level, and some need assistance with the basic necessities of life. Most autistic children show some level of communication difficulty and lack of social skills. Autistic children usually are not recognized until about the age of three. With the exception of Rett’s Syndrome, more boys than girls seem to be affected. Every day we discover more about this condition but, only recently, have we discovered that there are at least five types of autism and several levels of disability for each.

Kanner’s Syndrome was first recognized by Dr Kanner in the 1930’s. This is the most common type of autism. These children have poor communication and social skills and a difficult time connecting to others emotionally. They seem to need constant routine and are often very sensitive to light, noise, and odors. They lack the ability to receive or show affection. Although a few are normal or even bright intellectually, most function at a very low level. This is sometimes called the true autism.

Asperger’s Disorder is either becoming more common or this type of autism is being recognized more often in the past few years. Often, as children, they are misdiagnosed with either Attention Deficit Disorder or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. This is unfortunate as early intervention is important in helping them cope with their condition. They have limited social skills and problems communicating, although they may have excellent language skills. Often they also have limited motor skills and may be clumsy. They are intolerant of changes in their daily routine. In spite of this, they are often very intelligent, but may obsessively concentrate on only one area of interest.

Rett’s Syndrome is, thankfully, rare and affects only girls. Symptoms include poor head growth, muscle atrophy, and extreme loss of muscle control. These girls are nearly always retarded and will need care for their lifetime. In the 1990’s, the causative gene was identified, and there is hope for eventual ways to intervene in this type of autism.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder also is quite rare. These children appear to be developing normally from birth until two to four years of age. Then they begin to regress. Verbal communication will begin to degenerate and motor skills will also disintegrate. This can result in loss of the abilities to control bowel or bladder and the ability to speak. They may also begin to have seizures.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder—Not Otherwise Specified is very much like Kanner’s Syndrome. The symptoms and necessary interventions are the same for both types of autism. The differences will be apparent only to specially trained doctors. These children have poor verbal and communication skills and difficulty with social interaction.

There are other types of autism; however, most patients have one of these five most common types. All children with autism will need special care and education in order to achieve their full potential. Their parents face extreme challenges and should seek out support groups for help.


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