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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder is the term for a range of neurological disorders that affects behavior, social, and communication in individuals who have been diagnosed.  Think of a Autism Spectrum as line with dots along it.  On the left is “mild autism” and on the far right is “severe autism.”  Individuals with autism have some things in common, but are also very different.

Generally speaking, individuals who have been diagnosed appear to be in their own little world, have difficulty adjusting to social and environmental situations, and expressing their feelings or communicating.  However, while each disorder on the sprectrum shares one or more characteristics of autism, they are each separate and distinct.

Janet Tubbs, author of Creative Thearpy for Children with Autism, ADD, and Asperger’s, describes it best:

“The Spectrum is a grouping of pervasive developmental disorders that range from very mild (ADD) to Asperger’s Syndrome to the more severe autism…Beyond autism are three rare disorders with some traits of autism; Fragile X, Rett, and Landau-Kleffner Syndromes.  Between ADD and autism is a large category of undefinded disorders that do not meet the criteria of any known disorders on the Spectrum and are designated as Pervasive Developmental Disorders – Not Otherwise Specified.”

Let’s explore the different types of “autisms.”

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

This is what is known as “mild autism” and is on the far left.  Those with ADD/ADHD have trouble focusing, are easily distracted, and hyperactive. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Approximately 9.5% or 5.4 million children 4-17 years of age have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, as of 2007.”

Asperger’s Syndrome

Those who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s have poor social skills, obsessions with things or objects, and are very curious and bright.  Typically, individuals with Asperger’s don’t have trouble with communication.

Autism, Autistic Disorder, or “Classic Autism”

Those with classic autism lack eye contact, are non-verbal, have social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviors and interests.

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

This is a large category of undefined disorderts that do not meet any of the known criteria for any of the other autisms on the spectrum.  Thow who meet some of the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome, but not all, may be diagnosed with PDD-NOS.

Fragile X, Rett and Landau Kleffner

These are more rare disorders on the far right of the spectrum.  Those with Fragile X are sensitive to sound, touch, and have social impediments.  Rett is a rare condition affecting mostly girls that is characterized by a regression in development at around the 6-18 month mark.  These children also have difficulty walking. Lastly, those with “Landau Kleffner” autism have similar symptoms to those with “classic autism” and also have poor language skills.

As you can see, Autism Spectrum Disorders are diverse neurological disorders, whose symptoms may or may not overlap.

My Journey with a Son on the Autism Spectrum

My son was diagnosed as falling under the “Autism Spectrum Disorder” in April of 2010 but was never placed into any one of these boxes.  I think he fell in the middle and is now moving further to the left as possible being an “Aspie” – a term of endearment for someone with Asperger’s.

If you believe someone in your family, or your child may have any of these symptoms, it is advisable to have them tested by your public school board.  Diggy was unofficially diagnosed by the special education program in public school before receiving an official diagnosis.

It is my hope that you learn more about your loved one, or child, get a diagnosis and learn to cope and move on.  I aim to help you in the journey on this blog.

Autism Spectrum Resources and Facts from the Web

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