WHAT ARE THE AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS?

The autism spectrum disorders are more common in the paediatric population than other better known disorders such as diabetes, spinal bifida, or Down syndrome. The earlier the disorder is diagnosed, the sooner the child can be helped through treatment interventions. Paediatricians, family physicians, daycare providers, teachers, and parents may initially dismiss signs of ASD, optimistically thinking the child is just a little slow and will “catch up.”

All children with ASD demonstrate deficits in 1) social interaction, 2) verbal and non-verbal communication, and 3) repetitive behaviours or interests. In addition, they will often have unusual responses to sensory experiences, such as certain sounds or the way objects look. Each of these symptoms runs the gamut from mild to severe. They will present in each child differently. For instance, a child may have little trouble learning to read but exhibit extremely poor social interaction. Each child will display communication, social, and behavioural patterns that are individual but fit into the overall diagnosis of ASD.

Children with ASD do not follow the typical patterns of child development. In some children, hints of future problems may be apparent from birth. In most cases, the problems in communication and social skills become more noticeable as the child lags further behind other children of the same age. Some children start off well enough. Often in the times between 12 and 36 months old, the differences in the way they react to people and other unusual behaviours become apparent. Some parents report the change as being sudden, and that their children start to reject people, act strangely, and lose language and social skills they had previously acquired. In other cases, there is a plateau, or leveling, of progress so that the difference between the child with autism and other children the same age becomes more noticeable.

AUSTISTIC DISORDER

Autistic disorder (also called autism; more recently described as “mindblindness“) is a neurological and developmental disorder that usually appears during the first three years of life. Children with autism appears to live in their own world, showing little interest in others and lack social awareness. The focus of an autistic child is a consistent routine and includes an interest in repeating odd and peculiar behaviors. Autistic children often have problems in communication, avoid eye contact and show limited attachment to others.

ASPERGER'S DISORDER

This disorder is a milder variant of Autistic Disorder. Both Asperger’s Disorder and Autistic Disorder are in fact subgroups of a larger diagnostic category. This larger category is called either Autistic Spectrum Disorders, mostly in European countries, or Pervasive Developmental Disorders (“PDD“), in the United States. In Asperger’s Disorder, the affected individuals are characterized by social isolation and eccentric behaviour in childhood. There are impairments in two-sided social interaction and non-verbal communication. Though grammatical, their speech may sound peculiar due to abnormalities of inflection and a repetitive pattern. Clumsiness may be prominent both in their articulation and gross motor behaviour. They usually have a circumscribed area of interest which usually leaves no space for more age appropriate, common interests. Some examples are cars, trains, French Literature, door knobs, hinges, cappuccino, meteorology, astronomy or history. The name “Asperger” comes from Hans Asperger, an Austrian physician who first described the syndrome in 1944. An excellent translation of Dr. Asperger’s original paper is provided by Dr. Uta Frith in herAutism and Asperger Syndrome.

CDD

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is a condition occurring in 3- and 4-year-olds developed normally to age 2. Over several months, a child with this disorder will deteriorate in intellectual, social, and language functioning from previously normal behavior.

The cause of Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is unknown, but it has been linked to neurological problems. An affected child shows a loss of communication skills, has regression in non-verbal behaviours, and significant loss of previously acquired skills. The condition is similar to autistic disorder

RETT'S SYNDROME

Rett’s syndrome is a childhood neuro-developmental disorder that affects females almost exclusively. Loss of muscle tone is usually the first symptom. Other early symptoms may include problems crawling or walking and diminished eye contact. As the syndrome progresses, a child will lose purposeful use of her hands and the ability to speak. Compulsive hand movements such as wringing and washing follow the loss of functional use of the hands. The inability to perform motor functions is perhaps the most severely disabling feature of Rett’s Syndrome, interfering with every body movement, including eye gaze and speech.

PDD-NOS

PDD-NOS is not autism. This diagnosis is given when they have some symptoms of autism, but not enough to have the Autism diagnosis. Depending on what symptoms are showing up in the child, this diagnosis can be just as devastating to a family as an Autism diagnosis. The diagnosis could also be changed to Autism as the child gets older and they can run more accurate testing. It’s very hard to pin point the diagnosis at the age of 3.

PDD..any type and autism are all part of what are known as the “autistic spectrum”. Asperger’s is on it as well. While all three have some things in common, each has it’s own symptomatology..usually the degree of the symptoms is the deciding factor. You can use cancer as a way to explain it..there are many different types of cancer…some are much easier to defeat than others, some have higher re-occurrence rates than others, some seem to be found more in one sex than the other, but they all fall under the heading of cancer because at it’s root, they are all caused by cells that do not work or develop properly. Spectrum disorders are all similar in that these kids tend to have problems with social and communication skills, but each one is unique unto itself. PDD is not autism, but there are a lot of similarities and many of the education and behavioural approaches used for one can be just as effective with the other.