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Autism refers to a broad range of conditions that are characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication, largely impacting the nervous system and affecting the overall cognitive, emotional, social, and physical health of the affected individual. Let’s take a closer look at autism and understand the types of autism spectrum disorder.

Understanding Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism is a developmental disorder caused by neurological differences in the brain that affect the way they behave, communicate, interact, and learn. The abilities of such people can vary significantly and they often need a lot of help in their daily lives to function efficiently.

ASD begins before a child turns 3 years old, and can last throughout their life, although symptoms may improve or be better managed with time. Some children show ASD symptoms within the first 12 months of their life, and sometimes, the symptoms may not show up until 24 months of age, or even later. When these children become adolescents, they may have difficulties developing and maintaining friendships, communicating with peers, or even understanding what behaviors are expected in school or on the job. The signs of an Autism Spectrum Disorder are then brought to the attention of healthcare providers, because some of them could also have conditions like anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. 

Symptoms of Autism

People with ASD have different ways of learning or paying attention, which have the potential to make life very challenging. Social communication, and restricted or repetitive behaviors, are one of the first signs that are seen. Here are some other characteristics that are observed in children and adults with ASD:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Not displaying too many emotions or facial gestures
  • Delayed language skills
  • Delayed motor skills
  • Delayed cognitive or learning skills
  • Hyperactive, impulsive, or inattentive behavior
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder
  • Unusual eating and sleeping habits
  • Gastrointestinal issues (e.g., constipation)
  • Unusual mood or emotional reactions
  • Anxiety, stress, or excessive worry
  • Lack of fear or more fear than expected

Autism Diagnosis

Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there aren’t any definitive medical tests, or a blood test to diagnose this disorder. Doctors observe the child’s behavior, symptoms, and their overall development in order to make a diagnosis. 

Types of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Given the wide variation in the severity and types of ASD symptoms, there are different types of Autism Spectrum Disorder, including the primary ones, i.e. Austistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

  • Autistic Disorder

Referred to as “classic” autism, people with autistic disorder usually have significant language delays, social, and communication challenges, unusual behaviors and interests, and some also have intellectual disability.

  • Asperger Syndrome

They usually have milder symptoms of Autism i.e. social challenges and unusual behaviors and interests. A child with level 1 spectrum disorder will have above-average intelligence and strong verbal skills, but might experience challenges with social communication, with the following symptoms:

  • Inflexibility in thought and behavior
  • Challenges in switching between activities
  • Flat monotone speech, the inability to express feelings in their speech, or change their pitch to fit their immediate environment
  • Difficulty interacting with peers at school or home
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

Sometimes called “atypical autism” or “subthreshold autism”, PDD-NOS is a mild type of autism that presents a range of symptoms such as delays in language development, walking, and other motor skills. The most common symptoms are challenges in social and language development.

  • Rett Syndrome

Rett syndrome is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder that is noticed in infancy. The disorder is known to affect more girls than boys, and presents challenges that affect almost every aspect of a child’s life:

  • Loss of standard movement and coordination
  • Challenges with communication and speech
  • Breathing difficulties in some cases

 

  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)

CDD is also known as Heller’s syndrome or disintegrative psychosis. This neurodevelopmental disorder is defined by delayed onset of developmental problems in language, motor skills, or social function. Childhood disintegrative disorder is more common in boys, and regressions start quite abruptly in more than two developmental aspects of their life. The child is likely to lose any of the following skills and abilities:

  • Toileting skills, if they had already been established
  • Acquired language or vocabularies
  • Social skills and adaptive behaviors
  • Some motor skills

 

  • Kanner’s Syndrome

Discovered in 1943, Kanner’s syndrome was characterized as an infantile autism. Children with Kanner’s syndrome will appear attractive, alert, and intelligent with underlying characteristics of the disorder, such as:

  • Lack of emotional attachment with others
  • Communication and interaction challenges
  • Uncontrolled speech
  • Obsession with handling objects
  • A high degree of rote memory and visuospatial skills with major difficulties learning in other areas

ASD Treatments

The treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder, at this moment, aim to reduce the patient’s symptoms that interfere with their day-to-day functioning and improve the overall quality of life. Stem Cell Therapy is proven to be very effective, and can improve behavior, anxiety, social skills, communication, speech as well as ability to focus. For best results, ASD treatments are likely to involve more than one approach, some of which are:

  • Behavioral approach
  • Developmental approach
  • Educational approach
  • Social-Relational approach
  • Pharmacological approach
  • Psychological approach
  • Complementary and alternative approaches

Some approaches focus on changing the behaviors by understanding the cause and consequence of the behavior. A notable behavioral treatment for people is Applied Behavior Analysis, which encourages desired behaviors and discourages undesired behaviors to improve a variety of skills. 

Some other approaches focus on improving specific developmental skills, such as language skills or physical skills. Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy are also reportedly quite effective, since they teach the relevant skills to help the person live as independently as possible. Occupational therapy also includes Sensory Integration Therapy, Behavior Retraining Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Social Skills Training. 

FAQs

Are there different types of autism?

Yes, there are five major types of autism which include Asperger’s Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Kanner’s syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified.

Is OCD a type of autism?

No, Autism and OCD are two different conditions.

Is Autism a type of learning disability?

Autism is not a learning disability. They could both be lifelong conditions, but are not the same. Nearly half the people with autism could also have a learning disability.

What type of mutation causes autism?

Inherited mutations in a gene called ACTL6B lead to autism, epilepsy and intellectual disability, according to a new study. The mutations are recessive, which means that they lead to autism only if a person inherits them in both copies of the gene — one from each parent, who are silent carriers.

Management of autism depends on the type of autism and the severity of symptoms. Some types can be managed through behavior modification while some others with social training. Some would require more substantial support, such as occupational therapy. Your family doctor will guide you on the specific treatment options that will be most beneficial to your child.

References

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

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

https://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/wcfh/Pages/autism/spectrum.aspx

Dr Na'eem Sadiq is a respected stem cell specialist at Plexus, and a prominent neurologist in Bangalore. He studied neurology and clinical neurophysiology in London, and worked with some of the most prestigious medical institutions in England, and the Middle East. He completed his MBBS at Bellary Government Medical College, and a postgraduate degree in psychiatry from NIMHANS in Bangalore.

Dr Na'eem has perfected his knowledge and expertise in Continuing medical education (CME), and training in tissue culture, Stem Cell Therapy, and neurology. Dr Na'eem Sadiq possesses an undying passion to improve people’s lives. This led to the creation of Plexus, a neuro and Stem Cell Research centre in Bangalore in neurosurgery, and neurorehabilitation.