When you think about autism, your mind might jump from one set of symptoms to another. They all range in severity and the symptoms are different for every person. That’s why medical professionals refer to it as autism spectrum disorder. But that wasn’t the case for many years. Instead, people with autism were diagnosed with specific types of autism. So, what is autism spectrum disorder exactly? The old diagnoses can be used to give you a better understanding of a person’s symptoms, their challenges, and their strengths.
Autistic disorder describes what most people think of when they hear the term “autism.” Individuals on this end of the spectrum often face significant social challenges and may have impaired speech and motor skills. They may also be sensitive to physical touch, noises, bright colors, and other such stimuli.
Of course, no two individuals with autism will exhibit the same symptoms and the term is no longer used as an official diagnosis when parents ask their children’s doctors “what is autism spectrum disorder?”
Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
PDD-NOS was often used in answer to the question, “what is autism spectrum disorder” when the symptoms a person showed weren’t quite the normal ones. People who fall under this part of the spectrum have symptoms somewhere between Asperger’s disorder and autistic disorder. They may function normally in many situations but may also have communication issues and social challenges.
Asperger’s disorder, also known as high-functioning autism, is the mildest end of the spectrum. Most people classified with Asperger’s are able to function in society, but have some of the same social challenges as others elsewhere on the spectrum. They also tend to have intense interests in certain subjects and hobbies.
Many people with Asperger’s may go undiagnosed for years as they often appear “quirky but normal” to others.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)
CDD is a rare form of autism spectrum disorder that causes individuals to lose their skills and abilities. This means they often lose the ability to talk, communicate, and in some cases, move. The term is often used to describe a person’s symptoms, but it’s not recognized as a formal diagnosis.
The number of cases of autism spectrum disorder that fall under the CDD end of the spectrum are few. This means the therapies offered are still getting developed and doctors are still working on better understanding how to help patients on this end of the spectrum.
Autism is a Spectrum Disorder
The answer to “what is autism spectrum disorder” is complicated. People with autism fall into different categories, exhibit different symptoms, and may not exhibit symptoms at all unless they’re facing certain triggers.
The only way to know if your child or loved one has autism spectrum disorder is to speak with an experienced professional. If you’re seeing certain behaviors that make you wonder if there are things you can do to better help your loved one live a happy and fulfilling life, schedule an appointment today.