What are autism spectrum disorders?
People with an autism spectrum disorder face challenges in three areas: communication, social skills, and a tendency toward restricted, repetitive behaviors. Compared to typical, age-appropriate behavior, the behavioral difficulties of a person with an ASD range from very mild to severe, which is why autism is described as a spectrum.
Disorders on the spectrum
Autism spectrum disorders include autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and the rare Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.
PPD-NOS: A person with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified exhibits some of the signs of an ASD but with fewer symptoms than those with autism.
Asperger’s syndrome: People with Asperger’s syndrome do not show delays in language development and have typical levels of intelligence, but have challenges with social interactions. They may also develop obsessive interests in topics or objects.
Autism: Those with autism face more severe challenges in all three areas of communication, social skills, and behavior.
Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder: These are the most severe disorders on the spectrum. They are also extremely rare. Unlike classic autism, which is more prevalent in boys, Rett syndrome afflicts girls. It usually involves severe muscle weakness and motor control difficulties. Childhood disintegrative disorder is often more severe than autism and, unlike the other ASDs, does not appear until age 3 or 4, when a child’s development severely regresses.