Types Of Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects individuals in various ways. Understanding the fundamental aspects of ASD is crucial to providing appropriate support and interventions. This section will explore what Autism Spectrum Disorder is and delve into its prevalence and diagnosis.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that impacts an individual's social communication and behavior. It is characterized by a range of challenges, including difficulties with social interactions, repetitive behaviors, and a limited range of interests. As the name suggests, ASD exists on a spectrum, meaning that individuals with this disorder can exhibit a wide range of strengths and challenges.

ASD affects each person differently, resulting in significant variations in communication, social skills, and behavior. Some individuals may have excellent language skills but struggle with social interactions, while others may have limited verbal communication abilities but excel in specific areas of interest. It is essential to recognize and appreciate the diverse ways in which ASD can manifest.

Prevalence and Diagnosis

Autism Spectrum Disorder is more prevalent than ever before. According to recent studies, approximately 1 in 54 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD. The increased prevalence can be attributed to improved awareness and diagnostic criteria, as well as a better understanding of the disorder.

Diagnosing ASD involves a comprehensive evaluation conducted by experienced professionals, such as pediatricians, psychologists, or developmental specialists. The evaluation typically includes assessments of the individual's behavior, communication skills, and social interactions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides the diagnostic criteria used by professionals to identify and diagnose ASD.

Early diagnosis and intervention play a crucial role in improving outcomes for individuals with ASD. Identifying ASD at an early stage allows for timely access to appropriate interventions and support services. If you suspect that your child may have ASD, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional who specializes in developmental disorders.

Understanding the basics of Autism Spectrum Disorder, including its definition, prevalence, and diagnostic process, is a significant step towards supporting individuals with ASD. In the following sections, we will explore the diverse types of autism that fall within the spectrum, highlighting the unique characteristics and challenges associated with each.

The Spectrum of Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) encompasses a wide range of neurodevelopmental conditions that affect individuals in unique ways. Recognizing the diverse types of autism is essential for understanding the spectrum and tailoring support to meet individual needs.

Recognizing the Diverse Types of Autism

Within the autism spectrum, there are distinct types that present with varying characteristics and challenges. These types include:

Classic Autism (Autistic Disorder)

Classic autism, also known as Autistic Disorder, is characterized by significant impairments in social interactions and communication skills. Individuals with classic autism often display repetitive behaviors, have difficulty with change, and may demonstrate a limited range of interests.

Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger's Syndrome is a type of autism characterized by milder symptoms compared to classic autism. Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome typically exhibit challenges in social interaction, communication, and may have intense interests in specific subjects.

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

PDD-NOS is a diagnosis given to individuals who display some of the characteristics of autism but do not meet the criteria for a specific subtype. These individuals may have milder symptoms or a combination of symptoms from different types of autism.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, also known as Heller's syndrome, is a rare condition where typically developing children experience a significant loss of previously acquired skills, such as language, social abilities, and motor skills.

Rett Syndrome

Rett Syndrome primarily affects females and is characterized by normal development during early childhood, followed by a loss of purposeful hand skills and the development of repetitive hand movements. Rett Syndrome is a genetic disorder rather than a typical form of autism.

While these types of autism provide a framework for understanding the spectrum, it's crucial to recognize that every individual with autism is unique. Some individuals may exhibit characteristics from multiple types or have additional conditions such as epilepsy or hyperactivity.

Importance of Individualized Approach

Understanding the diverse types of autism emphasizes the importance of adopting an individualized approach. Each person with autism has unique strengths, challenges, and needs. By recognizing and accommodating these differences, parents, educators, and support professionals can provide tailored strategies and interventions that maximize the individual's potential for growth and development.

An individualized approach takes into account the specific characteristics, communication abilities, sensory sensitivities, and interests of each person with autism. It allows for personalized educational accommodations, therapy options, and community support.

By recognizing the diverse types of autism and embracing an individualized approach, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with autism, enabling them to thrive and reach their full potential.

Types of Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that manifests in various ways. The spectrum of autism encompasses different types, each with its own unique characteristics and challenges. Understanding these different types is crucial for providing appropriate support and interventions. Here are some of the most recognized types of autism:

Classic Autism (Autistic Disorder)

Classic Autism, also known as Autistic Disorder, is the most well-known type of autism. Individuals with this type of autism typically demonstrate significant impairments in social interaction, communication, and the presence of repetitive behaviors. They may have delayed language development, struggle with social cues, and exhibit repetitive movements or fixations on specific objects or topics. Every individual with autism is unique, and the severity of symptoms can vary widely.

Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger's Syndrome is considered a milder form of autism. Individuals with Asperger's may have average to above-average intelligence and typically exhibit fewer speech and cognitive delays compared to classic autism. However, they often struggle with social interaction, have difficulty understanding nonverbal cues, and may engage in repetitive behaviors or obsessive interests. While individuals with Asperger's may face challenges related to social communication, they can excel in areas of specific interest or expertise.

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

Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is a term used to describe individuals who display some but not all of the characteristics of autism. These individuals may have difficulties with social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors, but the symptoms may not meet the criteria for a specific subtype of autism. PDD-NOS is often diagnosed when an individual's symptoms do not fit neatly into the other recognized types of autism.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), also known as Heller's Syndrome, is a rare type of autism characterized by a significant loss of previously acquired skills in multiple areas of development. Children with CDD typically experience a regression in language, motor, social, and cognitive abilities between the ages of 2 and 10. The cause of CDD is still unclear, and more research is needed to understand this condition fully.

Rett Syndrome

Rett Syndrome is a genetic disorder that predominantly affects females. It is characterized by a period of typical development followed by a loss of acquired skills, such as purposeful hand movements and social engagement. Individuals with Rett Syndrome may experience difficulties with motor control, communication, and cognitive development. Rett Syndrome is caused by a specific genetic mutation and is distinct from other types of autism.

Understanding the different types of autism allows us to appreciate the diversity within the autism spectrum. However, it's important to remember that every individual with autism is unique, and their experiences can vary widely. By recognizing and embracing this diversity, we can provide better support and create a more inclusive society for individuals with autism.

Common Characteristics and Challenges

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may exhibit various common characteristics and face specific challenges that are important to understand and address. This section will explore three key areas: social and communication differences, sensory sensitivities, and repetitive behaviors and special interests.

Social and Communication Differences

One of the hallmarks of autism is social and communication differences. People on the autism spectrum may struggle with social interactions and have difficulty understanding and interpreting social cues. They may experience challenges in developing and maintaining friendships, engaging in reciprocal conversations, and understanding nonverbal communication such as facial expressions and body language.

Communication difficulties can manifest in different ways. Some individuals with autism may have delayed speech or language development, while others may have a good command of language but struggle with pragmatic language skills, such as understanding sarcasm or figurative language. It's important to note that the severity of these challenges can vary widely among individuals on the autism spectrum.

To support individuals with social and communication differences, various interventions and strategies can be employed. These may include social skills training, speech therapy, and the use of visual aids to facilitate communication. Early intervention programs are crucial in assisting individuals with autism in developing these important skills.

Sensory Sensitivities

Many individuals with autism experience sensory sensitivities, which means they may be more sensitive or less sensitive to certain sensory stimuli compared to neurotypical individuals. Sensory sensitivities can impact their experiences with touch, sound, sight, taste, and smell.

For example, a person with autism may be highly sensitive to certain sounds or textures, leading to feelings of discomfort or distress. On the other hand, they may seek out certain sensory experiences, such as spinning or rocking, as a way to self-regulate and find comfort.

Understanding and accommodating sensory sensitivities is crucial in creating a supportive environment for individuals with autism. This may involve providing a quiet space for individuals who are overwhelmed by noise, using soft and comfortable fabrics, or adjusting lighting to reduce visual stimulation. By recognizing and respecting individuals' sensory sensitivities, we can help create a more inclusive and comfortable environment for them.

Repetitive Behaviors and Special Interests

Repetitive behaviors and special interests are also common in individuals with autism. Repetitive behaviors can include actions like hand-flapping, rocking, or lining up objects in a particular order. These behaviors often serve as a way to self-soothe or manage anxiety.

Special interests, on the other hand, refer to intense and focused interests in specific topics or activities. These interests can be a source of joy and motivation for individuals with autism. Special interests may range from topics like trains or dinosaurs to complex subjects like mathematics or music.

Recognizing the importance of these repetitive behaviors and special interests is crucial. They can provide opportunities for engagement and learning. Encouraging and incorporating these interests into therapy, education, and daily activities can help individuals with autism build skills and foster their personal growth.

Understanding the common characteristics and challenges faced by individuals with autism enables us to provide the necessary support and create inclusive environments. By embracing and accommodating these differences, we can promote the well-being and success of individuals on the autism spectrum.

Support and Resources

When it comes to autism, support and resources play a crucial role in helping individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) reach their full potential. Whether it's early intervention, educational accommodations, or community and advocacy groups, there are various avenues available to provide support and assistance.

Early Intervention and Therapy

Early intervention is key in supporting individuals with autism and their families. The earlier interventions are implemented, the better the outcomes can be. Early intervention programs often focus on providing therapies that address the specific needs of individuals with autism.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is one commonly used intervention for autism. ABA therapy aims to teach new skills, improve behavior, and promote independence. Other therapies such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and social skills training can also be beneficial in addressing the unique challenges faced by individuals with autism. These therapies are typically tailored to meet the individual needs of each person and can be instrumental in supporting their development and well-being.

Educational Accommodations

Education plays a vital role in the lives of individuals with autism. It is important to ensure that educational settings are inclusive and provide the necessary accommodations to support the learning needs of individuals with autism. Some common educational accommodations for individuals with autism include:

  • Individualized Education Program (IEP): An IEP is a personalized plan developed by a team of educators, parents, and specialists to address the specific educational needs of a student with autism. It outlines goals, accommodations, and support services that will be provided in the educational setting.
  • Classroom Modifications: These can include visual supports, sensory accommodations, flexible seating arrangements, and modified assignments to help individuals with autism succeed in the classroom environment.
  • Social Skills Training: Social skills training programs can be implemented in schools to help individuals with autism navigate social interactions and develop appropriate social skills.

By providing these educational accommodations, individuals with autism can thrive in academic settings and have equal opportunities for learning and growth.

Community and Advocacy Groups

Community and advocacy groups for individuals with autism provide essential support networks and resources. These groups create a sense of belonging and understanding for individuals with autism and their families. They offer a platform for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and accessing valuable information.

These groups may organize various activities, support groups, and workshops aimed at empowering individuals with autism and their families. They can also advocate for policies and initiatives that promote inclusivity, acceptance, and understanding within society.

Engaging with community and advocacy groups can help individuals with autism and their families connect with others who share similar experiences, find guidance, and access valuable resources. These groups can provide a sense of support and solidarity, fostering a stronger sense of community.

As we continue to understand and appreciate the diverse types of autism, it is crucial to ensure that individuals with autism have the necessary support and resources to thrive. From early intervention and therapy to educational accommodations and community involvement, these resources play a vital role in enhancing the lives of individuals with autism and promoting their overall well-being.


What is the difference between classic autism and Asperger's syndrome?

Classic autism and Asperger's syndrome are both forms of autism, but they differ in severity and symptoms. Individuals with classic autism typically have significant delays in language development, social interaction, and behavioral skills, while individuals with Asperger's syndrome may have average or above-average intelligence and excel in certain areas, such as math or science.

Is PDD-NOS a milder form of autism than Asperger's syndrome?

Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) is not necessarily a milder form of autism than Asperger's syndrome. While individuals with PDD-NOS may have mild to moderate symptoms of autism, such as social and communication difficulties, they may also experience more severe symptoms.

Can Rett Syndrome affect boys?

Rett Syndrome mostly affects girls, occurring in 1 out of every 10,000 to 15,000 female births. However, boys can also be affected by Rett Syndrome if they inherit the mutated MECP2 gene from their mother.

How is childhood disintegrative disorder different from classic autism?

Childhood disintegrative disorder typically develops later than classic autism and involves a significant loss of skills that have already been acquired by the child, such as language, social interaction, and bowel and bladder control. In contrast, individuals with classic autism typically display delays in these skills from an early age.


Understanding the different types of autism is essential for parents, educators, and caregivers to provide the appropriate support and care for individuals on the spectrum. The different types of autism vary in severity and symptoms, and each individual with autism is unique. It's important to remember that although individuals with autism may face challenges, they also have strengths and talents that should be recognized and celebrated. With the right support and understanding, individuals with autism can live happy and fulfilling lives.