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The Spectrum: A Closer Look at 5 Different Types of Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that attacks the communication and behaviour of the sufferer. Symptoms can show within the first two years of life but aren’t confined to infants and toddlers. The continued persistence of the condition has led to the creation of multiple organizations willing to

Kanner’s Syndrome

In 1943, Professor Leo Kanner wrote a paper that would go on to an important document in history. Autism from that day forward was looked at differently, and in particular, spectrum disorders are sometimes referred to as Kanner’s Syndrome. Although he wasn’t the first scholar to reference autism in a direct way, he was the most vocal. That is why Kanner’s Syndrome and autism is considered one and the same by many people. With the condition beginning in the childhood stage, it disrupts a lot of the developmental growth needed to become an adult. The most noticeable of this is social interactivity, which can become a bigger problem as someone with autism gets older. Having autism does not mean normal ways of making a living (or living in general) aren’t possible. Some famous people throughout history with the condition were Charles Darwin, Dan Aykroyd and Jerry Seinfeld. So in short, those affected by autism can still comfortably enjoy great success in all areas of life. Getting a diagnosis is when things can get complicated. Without awareness of the issue, early childhood autism can become a devastating condition to live with.

Asperger’s Syndrome

When children and adults have Asperger’s syndrome, they face minor and major issues. All of this adds up to interfere with normal functions, even in non-stressful social situations. For adults, Asperger’s syndrome provides problems that extend to their place of work. Some of the symptoms are difficulty in social settings, interests that are restricted and a desire for sameness. It seems like a mixed bag until you actually go to the subcategories of the symptoms. Among the most difficult are anxiety, depression, difficulty learning and hypersensitivity. To a complete stranger, these symptoms can look like normal irritability. In other cases, a person may think that someone with Asperger’s is antisocial. Without understanding the underlying cause of any of these symptoms, misunderstandings are a guarantee.

But how is Asperger’s different from regular autism? For starters, it Hans Asperger was credited with discovering the condition. It was technically three years before Leo Kanner would be credited with autism. Asperger’s is more noticeable in boys and consists of motor skill delays, obsessive interests and other problems. To draw a line between autism and Asperger’s, autism can be high functioning while Asperger’s makes that same type of life difficult. Asperger’s is also more likely to be found in adulthood rather than childhood. Similarities of the condition are so close to autism that a diagnosis may change as the patient grows. A common occurrence is to see an autistic patient move to a diagnosis for Asperger’s when they get older.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder

The pervasive developmental disorder has now become an autism spectrum disorder. It is an older term that was used to describe children that had delays in their normal development. This would cause issues with routine changes, communicating, socializing and normal day to day activities. To use another older term, when kids throw a ‘conniption fit’, it would be described as being on the spectrum. This obviously was not always the case, but it is a very familiar circumstance of children that suffered from the pervasive developmental disorder. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association reclassified the name. The new naming convention put Asperger’s, childhood disintegrative disorder and autistic disorder all under autism spectrum disorders. Along with this more accurate name, doctors introduced a lot of needed information into the field of autism. This was the beginning of a very important step in healthcare’s continued fight against the condition.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

Also known as Heller’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder is a rare disease that has similarities to autism. Since the condition involves regression, it is classified as regressive autism. This is considered one of the earliest discovery of autism or one of a condition in its family. Theodor Heller made the discovery in 1908, beating out both Kanner and Asperger in their own research. With such uncertainty about CDD, it was once considered a form of dementia. Regression with this condition can happen as early as three years, so the effects can be dramatic compared to other autism types. Normal daily skills that seem easy to the sufferer will suddenly become hard tasks. Things like communicating become a chore, and soon after emotional development takes a hit from having an altered lifestyle. Less than two in one-hundred thousand people will have CDD. Like all autism spectrum disorders, early detection is the key to leading a healthy life. But unlike the others mentioned childhood disintegrative disorder requires a lot of aftercare.

Rett’s Syndrome

Rett’s syndrome has autistic-like tendencies that target girls in greater numbers than boys. Dr Andreas Rett was the first to identify the condition in 1966. The pattern of Rett’s syndrome starts with normal childhood development followed by a slow regression with the use of hands, muscles and intellect. The condition is so degenerative that it can also affect head growth and walking. During the earliest stages of the condition is when it mimics autism the most. Out of all the types of autism mentioned, Rett’s is by far the most damaging, only being by CDD. There are four stages of Rett’s, with the earliest signs starting at six months of age. Stage four is the most problematic, with motor skill deterioration lasting for several years. The good news about Rett’s syndrome is that researchers know the mutation that causes the condition. This has led to much better treatments and lifestyle changes in Rett’s syndrome sufferers.

Wrap Up

Autism is a spectrum disorder because of the variation and severity of its attacks. One individual experience with it will be completely different from another. The five types represented in the article barely scratch the surface of the condition, so readers are encouraged to discover more on their own.

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