The Different Types of Autism

Autism typically appears during the first three years of life. Some children show signs from birth. Others may not show symptoms until they are 18 to 36 months old. Autism is four times more common in boys than in girls. It knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, or educational levels do not affect a child's chance of being autistic.

Different types of Autism Spectrum disorders include:

  • Autistic disorder This is what most people think of when they hear the word "autism." It is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, restricted and repetitive behavior and imaginative play in children younger than 3 years.
  • Asperger's syndrome These children don't typically have a problem with language. In fact, they tend to score in the average or above-average range on intelligence tests. But they have the same social problems and limited scope of interests as children with autistic disorder. Doctors group Asperger's syndrome with other conditions that are called autistic spectrum disorders. Asperger's syndrome is generally thought to be at the milder end of this spectrum.
  • Pervasive developmental disorder or PDD. This is sort of a catch-all category for children who have some autistic behaviors but who don't fit into other categories. PDD refers to a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination. Children with these conditions often are confused in their thinking and generally have problems understanding the world around them.
  • Rett syndrome Known to occur mainly in girls, children with Rett syndrome start developing normally but begin to lose their communication and social skills. Rett Syndrome is the most physically disabling of the autism spectrum disorders. Many girls live into adulthood, requiring total, 24-hour-a-day care. There is no treatment beyond supportive, and often ineffective, measures such as feeding tubes, bracing, orthopedic and GI surgeries, and medications for anxiety and seizures.
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder This is also known as Heller's syndrome. It's a very rare condition in which children develop normally until at least two years of age, but then demonstrate a severe loss of social, communication and other skills. Childhood disintegrative disorder is part of a larger category called autism spectrum disorder. Someone with childhood disintegrative disorder shows severe regression after several years of normal development and a more dramatic loss of skills than a child with autism does. In addition, childhood disintegrative disorder can develop later than autism does.

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