Skip to main content
Accessibility  |  Contact  |  Privacy  |  Terms of Service

Autism Spectrum Disorders Explained

  • Published: 2010-07-16 (Revised/Updated 2017-02-02) : Author: Disabled World : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Information on Autism Spectrum Disorder the term used to refer to several conditions including autism and Asperger syndrome.
Autism Spectrum Disorders

The autism spectrum, also called autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or autism spectrum conditions (ASC), with the word autistic sometimes replacing autism, is a spectrum of psychological conditions characterized by widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, as well as severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behavior.

Main Document

"Autism is thought to be present soon after birth, with the characteristics of the disorder becoming apparent in the first three years of life."

There are three main types of autism spectrum disorder, two types are quite rare.

Autism spectrum disorders affect three different areas of a child's life:

People with autism have difficulties with communication and social interaction and display restricted repetitive patterns of interest and activity. Autism is thought to be present soon after birth, with the characteristics of the disorder becoming apparent in the first three years of life.

Autism seems to be on the rise, and autism spectrum disorders affect between two and six children out of every 1,000 in the U.S. It's unclear, though, whether the growing incidence of autism represents a real increase or just improved detection.

Around 75% of people with autism also have intellectual disability. The remaining 25% may have impaired insight, social functioning and communication skills but do not have intellectual disability or significantly reduced cognitive ability. This is called 'higher functioning autism'. A small number of people with higher functioning autism may have extraordinary creative or artistic skills and abilities. Asperger syndrome

Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

This diagnosis applies to most children with autistic spectrum disorder. Children whose autism is more severe than Asperger's syndrome but not as severe as autistic disorder are diagnosed with PDD-NOS.

Autism symptoms in kids with PDD-NOS vary widely, making it hard to generalize. Overall, compared to children with other autistic spectrum disorders, children with PDD-NOS have:

Asperger Syndrome

People with Asperger syndrome have social deficits and restricted patterns of interest and activity similar to people with autism. However, they do not have intellectual disability and the development of their language and cognitive skills appears to be normal, at least in the first two years of life. Professional and practical experience indicates clearly, however, that people with Asperger syndrome have disordered language and specific learning difficulties.

Formal recognition and diagnosis of Asperger syndrome usually occurs later than for autism. It is thought that it is probably because the person's social deficits don't become apparent until they spend time in social settings, such as kindergarten or school.

Rett Syndrome

Signs of Rett syndrome that are similar to autism. Rett Syndrome is a childhood neuro-developmental disorder characterized by normal early development followed by loss of purposeful use of the hands, distinctive hand movements, slowed brain and head growth, gait abnormalities, seizures, and mental retardation. The signs of this disorder are most easily confused with those of Angelman syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism. It affects females almost exclusively. Rett syndrome is caused by mutations (structural alterations or defects) in the MECP2 (pronounced meck-pea-two) gene, which is found on the X chromosome.

Girls with Rett syndrome are prone to gastrointestinal disorders and up to 80% have seizures. They typically have no verbal skills, and about 50% of females are not ambulatory. Scoliosis, growth failure, and constipation are very common and can be problematic.

Rett Syndrome signs may stabilize for many decades, particularly for interaction and cognitive function such as making choices. Anti-social behavior may change to highly social behavior. Motor functions may slow as rigidity and dystonia appear. Seizures may be problematic, with a wide range of severity. Scoliosis occurs in most, and may require corrective surgery. Those who remain ambulatory tend to have less progression of scoliosis.

Treatment and Management of Autism Spectrum Disorders

No single treatment is best and treatment is typically tailored to the child's needs. Intensive, sustained special education programs and behavior therapy early in life can help children acquire self-care, social, and job skills. The main goals of treatment are to lessen associated deficits and family distress, and to increase quality of life and functional independence. Available approaches include applied behavior analysis (ABA), developmental models, structured teaching, speech and language therapy, social skills therapy, and occupational therapy. ABA therapy has a strong research base but it maybe limited by diagnostic severity and IQ.

Similar Topics

1 : Early Indicators: High Functioning Autism and Aspergers Syndrome : Michelle Fattig.
2 : People Who Hear Voices Can Detect Hidden Speech in Unusual Sounds : Durham University.
3 : Neurological Link Between Religious Experiences and Epilepsy : University of Missouri-Columbia.
4 : Cat Ownership Not Linked To Mental Health Problems : University College London.
5 : Possible Major Advance for Neurological Diseases Following New discovery : University of Bristol.
From our Neurological Disorders section - Full List (81 Items)

Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.

Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.

Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.

List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.

Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.

1 : Exploring Upper Limb Dysfunction After Spinal Cord Injury
2 : Yearly Business Plan Scholarship for Students with Disabilities
3 : Registration now open for Turnstone Endeavor Games - April 20-22, 2018
4 : PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics: Day Eight Highlights
5 : PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics: Day Seven Highlights


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.