Types of Autism: Parts of the spectrum

Types of Autism: Parts of the spectrum

Author :Melanie Mitchell , for ‘Spot A Childcare’

Having an autistic child can, at first, be quite scary because you don’t know quite what to expect. Autism as described in my previous article ‘Understand Autism’ is widely classed as a spectrum condition, which means that there are many different types that come under the same umbrella.

Whatever the varying type of autism that your child has, just by understanding it slightly will help you to both develop and to interpret the world around you much more. There are considered to be three main types of autism, but this doesn’t always take into account all the other issues that might also form part of that diagnosis.

Classic Autism

Classic autism is also known as ASD (Autism spectrum disorder), Childhood Autism, Kanner’s syndrome, ASC (Autistic Spectrum Condition), infantile psychosis etc etc, but basically this refers what most people think of when they hear the word autism. People with classic autism tend to have significant language delays, difficulties with communication and social interaction and undefined but unusual behaviours, such as repetitive behaviours. They can also have or display traits of learning difficulties.

Asperger’s Syndrome

People with Asperger’s tend to display milder traits of autism. They may have issues with social interaction and they may display repetitive behaviours or fixated interests, but they tend to not have problems with language and communication and they might not have a learning disability. High Functioning Autism (HFA), shares similar traits to those of Asperger’s Syndrome, and would is often classed as the same thing. However, for people who recognise themselves as having High Functioning Autism and not Asperger’s Syndrome, then the differences are quite apparent.

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

People with PDD-NOS or atypical autism are people that meet some of the criteria for those with autistic disorder or Asperger’s, but not all. People that are diagnosed with PDD-NOS tend to have much milder symptoms, and these might only cause social and communication problems.

Rett’s Syndrome

Rett’s syndrome is typically attributed to girls. People with Rett’s syndrome have problems with muscle control and tend to display repetitive hand movements. Rett’s Syndrome is now no longer classed as a type of autism in the later editions of DSM or ICD, however, it made the list just in case you hear it as a form of autism, you’ll now know it’s not.

Confused yet? “I know I was when I first ever started to try to understand autism.”

Basically, autism is so wide and varied, it is difficult to know what to expect and what it means, but common factors and traits assist in diagnosis. Autism is generally diagnosed in a child between the ages of 18 to 24 months. The main symptoms of autism or early indicators can include;

  • Avoiding eye contact of wanting to be alone
  • Not recognising their own name
  • Obsessive interests
  • Getting upset by small changes
  • Not showing an interest in nearby objects – such as a bird flying over them
  • Being unable to participate in pretend play – such as with dolls or other toys
  • Repeating words or phrases
  • Having trouble in understanding other people’s feelings
  • Delayed speech or language skills
  • Unusual reactions to sounds, smell, taste or feel

Like I said, this is not an exclusive list and not every child with autism will display all of these symptoms. Everyone is different and everyone with autism is also very different. What is important is to try to understand the symptoms that your child has when they are diagnosed with autism. As the parent, you will still be able to form a meaningful and long lasting bond with your child and you will become an expert in their behaviours during the early stages of their lives. One of the things I noticed with my own child was the obsessive interests. If they had a yellow day, then every item of clothing (everything) had to be yellow and they would only play with yellow toys! This gradually decreased or they developed different obsessive interests – currently this is animal welfare. We’re not allowed to eat anything meat or animal orientated in case they were harmed. I must confess that I still have a sneaky bacon buttie when my child is out.