Different Kinds of Autism

Discover the different kinds of autism and gain insights into their unique characteristics and challenges.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
May 20, 2024
Published On
May 20, 2024

Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder, is not a single condition but a broad spectrum that encompasses a variety of related conditions. Understanding the different types of autism can help parents, caregivers, and professionals provide appropriate support and intervention. This section will discuss the five major types of autism: Asperger's Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Kanner's Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified [1].

Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger's syndrome, now classified as level 1 autism spectrum disorder, is characterized by above-average intelligence, strong verbal skills, and challenges with social communication. Children and adults with Asperger's often have narrow, intense interests and struggle to understand social cues, which can make interaction with peers challenging. Despite these challenges, many individuals with Asperger's lead fulfilling and productive lives thanks to supportive interventions and strategies.

Rett Syndrome

Rett syndrome is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder that primarily affects girls. It typically becomes apparent after 6 to 18 months of normal development, when a child's physical and cognitive development begins to slow down. They may lose purposeful hand skills, such as grasping, and develop repetitive hand movements, such as wringing or clapping. Other symptoms include slowed growth, loss of social engagement, and issues with mobility. Each individual with Rett syndrome may experience a unique combination of symptoms, necessitating personalized treatment and support.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), also known as Heller's syndrome, is a rare condition characterized by a significant loss of skills, or regression, in language, social function, and motor skills. After a period of normal development, usually between 2 and 10 years of age, children with CDD experience a dramatic decline in their ability to speak, interact, and perform motor tasks. The cause of CDD is unclear, and its treatment typically involves therapies to manage symptoms and improve the child's quality of life [1].

Kanner's Syndrome

Kanner's syndrome, also known as classic autistic disorder or autism, is the most well-known type of autism. It is characterized by significant challenges in social interaction and communication, along with restricted and repetitive behaviors or interests. Symptoms typically appear in the first three years of life, and children with Kanner's syndrome often require substantial support to navigate daily life. Early intervention and personalized treatment can significantly improve outcomes for these children.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified

Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), often referred to as "subthreshold autism," is a type of autism characterized by challenges in social and language development. Children with PDD-NOS exhibit some, but not all, of the symptoms associated with classic autism, leading to its classification as a "milder" form of the disorder. However, the impact of PDD-NOS on a child's life can still be significant, and these children often benefit from targeted interventions to improve their social and communication skills.

In conclusion, understanding the different kinds of autism enhances the ability to provide appropriate support and treatment for individuals with these conditions. Each type of autism presents unique challenges, and therefore requires specialized strategies and interventions.

Characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger's syndrome, now classified as level 1 autism spectrum disorder, is one of the different kinds of autism. It is characterized by certain unique traits that set it apart from other types on the spectrum. In this section, we delve into the specific characteristics of Asperger's syndrome, focusing on intelligence, verbal skills, and social communication challenges.

Intelligence and Verbal Skills

Individuals with Asperger's syndrome often exhibit above-average intelligence and strong verbal skills, a characteristic that distinguishes them from some other types of autism. They may be highly intelligent and able to manage daily life, though they may struggle more with social interactions.

Children with Asperger's do not exhibit language delays or have lower IQs compared to children with other types of autism [3]. They often have superior IQs, which can manifest in detailed knowledge of one specific subject or area of interest. However, their intelligence levels can significantly vary, as with any group of individuals.

Autism Type Average IQ Range
Asperger's Syndrome Above average
Other Autism Types Varies

Social Communication Challenges

Despite their intelligence and strong verbal skills, individuals with Asperger's syndrome often face challenges with social communication. They may struggle to understand non-verbal cues, have difficulty maintaining eye contact, and may not understand sarcasm or irony.

These individuals often have a literal interpretation of language, finding it hard to understand metaphors or idioms. They also may have particular speech patterns, such as speaking in a monotone or using a formal and advanced vocabulary for their age.

Social communication challenges can make forming and maintaining relationships difficult for individuals with Asperger's syndrome. They may appear socially awkward or uninterested in others, but this is often not the case. With support and understanding, many individuals with Asperger's can form meaningful relationships.

It's worth noting that the average age of diagnosis for a child with autism is four years, while a person with Asperger's may not receive a diagnosis until they are a teenager or adult. This delay in diagnosis can often be attributed to their strong verbal skills and intelligence, which can mask their social communication difficulties.

Understanding the unique characteristics of Asperger's syndrome can help parents, teachers, and caregivers provide the right support and intervention strategies. It's important to remember that every individual with Asperger's is unique, and they may not exhibit all of the common characteristics or they may exhibit them in different ways.

Understanding Rett Syndrome

Rett syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that primarily affects girls, leading to severe cognitive and physical impairments. It is one of the distinct disorders that fall under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders, adding to the different kinds of autism that exist.

Impact on Girls

Rett syndrome is caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene and typically presents symptoms between 6 and 18 months of age. It is characterized by a loss of purposeful hand skills, slowed growth, and the development of repetitive hand movements. Other symptoms may include breathing abnormalities, seizures, and intellectual disabilities.

The disorder primarily affects girls because the MECP2 gene is located on the X chromosome. Because girls have two X chromosomes, they are more likely to inherit an X chromosome carrying the mutation. Boys, who have only one X chromosome, are less likely to inherit the disorder but tend to experience more severe symptoms if they do.

Challenges in Daily Life

The life of a child with Rett syndrome can be significantly impacted by the disorder. The loss of purposeful hand skills can make it difficult for the child to perform everyday tasks such as eating, dressing, or using a mobile device. Slowed growth and the development of repetitive hand movements can also impact the child's physical abilities and mobility.

Furthermore, breathing abnormalities can make it difficult for the child to maintain regular breath patterns, potentially leading to anxiety and distress. Seizures and intellectual disabilities can also pose challenges in both schooling and social interactions.

Despite these challenges, children with Rett syndrome can lead fulfilling lives with appropriate support and care. Treatment for Rett syndrome focuses on managing symptoms and providing supportive care, as there is currently no cure for the disorder [6]. Therapies can include physical, occupational, and speech therapy, alongside medical management of seizures and breathing abnormalities. With the right support, children with Rett syndrome can overcome many of the challenges posed by this disorder and lead a fulfilling life.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder Overview

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) is one of the lesser-known types within the different kinds of autism. This disorder is defined by delayed onset of developmental issues in language, motor skills, or social function. Interestingly, these issues only start appearing after age three and can occur up to age 10, often following a period of normal development.

Delayed Developmental Issues

CDD is characterized by a significant delay in the development of basic skills. These include language and communication skills, social skills, and motor skills. The initial development of the child appears normal, making the onset of these issues unexpected and often confusing for parents.

CDD is considered one of the most severe forms of autism because of the substantial regression that occurs in children affected by it. These children initially develop normally but then rapidly lose social, language, and mental skills, usually between ages 2 and 4.

Regression Characteristics

The regression seen in CDD is more than just a delay or halt in development. It involves a stark loss of skills, abilities, and knowledge that the child previously possessed. The child may suddenly lose interest in social interactions, stop speaking, become indifferent to stimuli, or lose motor skills that they had previously mastered.

The precise cause of this regression remains unknown. It can be particularly distressing for parents, as their child appears to move backward in their development. It's important to remember that CDD is a rare condition and that parents who notice any signs of regression in their child should seek professional advice for a thorough evaluation.

The unique characteristics of Childhood Disintegrative Disorder make it an essential part of understanding the diverse range of autism spectrum disorders. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of CDD can help ensure early intervention, which is critical in supporting the child's development and quality of life.

Insights into Kanner's Syndrome

Among the different kinds of autism, Kanner's Syndrome, also known as classic autism or autistic disorder, presents a unique set of challenges due to its symptom intensity and characteristic behavioral patterns.

Symptom Intensity

Kanner's Syndrome is further along the autism spectrum than Asperger’s and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). It is characterized by similar symptoms but at a more intense level.

Children with Kanner's Syndrome often display a wide range of symptoms and experiences, which can include difficulties with non-verbal communication, variances in IQ levels, and social deficits. These symptoms are more intense than those observed in Asperger's or PDD-NOS.

Behavioral Patterns

The behavioral patterns associated with Kanner's Syndrome are distinct and serve as key indicators of this type of autism. The behaviors observed in children with Kanner's Syndrome are often more severe when compared to other types on the autism spectrum.

These behaviors can manifest in different ways, including but not limited to severe difficulties in social interactions, communication challenges, and repetitive behaviors. The presentation of these behaviors can vary greatly from child to child, making each experience with Kanner's Syndrome unique.

Understanding the symptom intensity and behavioral patterns associated with Kanner's Syndrome is crucial in providing the needed support and care for children diagnosed with this type of autism. As parents and caregivers, it is important to be observant of these signs and seek professional help for early diagnosis and intervention.

PDD-NOS: A Mild Form of Autism

Within the spectrum of different kinds of autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) stands out as a milder type. This variant of autism is often referred to as "subthreshold autism" due to its subtler symptoms and challenges in social and language development.

Social and Language Development Challenges

One of the defining features of PDD-NOS is the significant challenges in social and language development. These individuals may struggle with social communication and interaction, such as understanding social cues or maintaining conversations. Similarly, their language development might be delayed or impaired, which can affect their ability to express themselves or understand others.

While these challenges can vary greatly in severity, they typically impact the individual's ability to function in social settings. However, it's important to note that PDD-NOS can occur in conjunction with a wide spectrum of intellectual ability, meaning that these individuals can have average or even above-average intelligence.

Subthreshold Autism Characteristics

PDD-NOS is often referred to as "subthreshold autism" due to its relatively mild symptoms. This means that these individuals have some but not all characteristics of autism, which is why PDD-NOS was often used as a diagnosis for individuals who are on the autism spectrum but do not fully meet the criteria for another ASD such as autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome [7].

However, with the publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual in 2013, PDD-NOS was folded into the single diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This change was intended to improve the accuracy and consistency of autism diagnoses, but it also means that "PDD-NOS" is no longer used as a separate diagnosis [7].

Despite these changes in diagnostic terminology, the challenges and characteristics associated with PDD-NOS remain relevant. Understanding these issues can help parents, educators, and health professionals provide appropriate support and interventions for individuals with subthreshold autism.


[1]: https://www.integrityinc.org/what-are-the-5-types-of-autism/

[2]: https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/autism-spectrum-disorders

[3]: https://www.tpathways.org/faqs/what-is-the-difference-between-autism-and-aspergers/

[4]: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17903-rett-syndrome

[5]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rett-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20350799

[6]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rett-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350798

[7]: https://www.autismspeaks.org/pervasive-developmental-disorder-pdd-nos