Press ESC to close

Summary of the Different Types of Autism

Autism is a complex neurological disorder that affects individuals in different ways. There are various types of autism, from Asperger’s Syndrome to Rett Syndrome, each with its own set of symptoms and challenges.

This article will explore the different types of autism, how they are diagnosed, and the various treatment options available.

We will also discuss the challenges and stigmas surrounding these types of autism, including misconceptions, access to resources, and employment opportunities.

Let’s dive in and learn more about the diverse world of autism.

Key Takeaways:

  • 1. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects social communication and behaviour.
  • 2. There are different types of autism, including Asperger’s, PDD-NOS, CDD, Rett syndrome, and classic autism.
  • 3. These types of autism can be diagnosed using various tools and are treated with therapies like ABA, speech and occupational therapy, and medications.

What Is Autism?

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts an individual’s social interactions, communication abilities, and behaviour patterns. The condition manifests in early childhood and can vary widely in severity and symptoms, often influenced by genetic factors, genetic variation, somatic mosaicism, and epigenetic regulation.

What Are the Symptoms of Autism?

The symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder can include challenges in social interactions, communication difficulties, repetitive behaviours, and restricted interests. In some cases, individuals with autism may also present with intellectual disability (ID) or co-occurring conditions like Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder may exhibit sensory sensitivities, such as heightened or reduced sensitivity to sound, touch, taste, or smell. They might struggle with changes in routine or environment, leading to meltdowns or heightened anxiety. Some individuals may use stimming behaviours like hand-flapping or rocking to regulate sensory input. Cognitive abilities can vary widely among those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, from profound intellectual disability to exceptional talents in specific areas.

What Are the Different Types of Autism?

Autism encompasses various subtypes that differ in their specific symptom profiles and developmental trajectories. These include Asperger’s syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), Rett Syndrome, and Classic Autism, each characterized by distinct features and challenges.

Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s syndrome is a subtype of autism characterized by significant challenges in social interactions and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour.

People with Asperger’s may find it challenging to interpret social cues, such as facial expressions or body language, leading to misunderstandings in conversations. They often have a unique way of communicating, sometimes appearing aloof or indifferent in social settings. Individuals with Asperger’s tend to adhere to routines and rituals, becoming distressed by changes in their environment. These behavioural traits can manifest as a solid attachment to specific routines and a preference for predictability in daily life.

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

Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is a subtype of autism characterized by atypical development in social skills, communication abilities, and behavioural patterns. Individuals with PDD-NOS may exhibit a range of symptoms that do not fully meet the criteria for other autism subtypes.

Unlike the more specific diagnostic criteria for other autism types, PDD-NOS presents a challenge in pinpointing clear-cut characteristics due to its variability in symptoms. This variability can make it harder to diagnose and treat effectively. It’s important to note that individuals with PDD-NOS may have difficulties in social interactions, repetitive behaviours, and communication. Still, the degree and manifestation of these symptoms can differ significantly from person to person. This diversity in symptom presentation underscores the complexity of PDD-NOS and the need for personalized approaches to intervention and support.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) is a rare form of autism where children develop typically for some time before experiencing a significant loss of previously acquired skills, such as language, social interactions, and motor abilities.

Upon reaching developmental milestones, children with CDD regress in areas like communication, play skills, and adaptive behaviours. This unique regression can be distressing for parents and caregivers as they witness a reversal in their child’s abilities. These individuals may also exhibit repetitive movements, self-injury, and unusual responses to sensory stimuli. The abruptness of the skill loss distinguishes CDD from other developmental disorders, making early detection crucial for intervention and support.

Rett Syndrome

Rett Syndrome is a genetic disorder that primarily affects girls and is marked by a period of typical development followed by a regression in motor and communication skills. Individuals with Rett Syndrome often exhibit repetitive hand movements and breathing irregularities.

One of the distinguishing features of Rett Syndrome is the unique pattern of regression, where the child loses acquired skills, such as purposeful hand use and language abilities, after a period of development.

This regression typically occurs between 6-18 months of age and may lead to the loss of social engagement and cognitive functions.

Physical symptoms like muscle stiffness, walking abnormalities, and seizures can further impact the daily lives of individuals with Rett Syndrome.

Classic Autism

Classic Autism, also known as Kanner’s Syndrome, is one of the earliest recognized subtypes of autism characterized by significant impairments in social interactions, communication challenges, and rigid adherence to routines or rituals.

In the historical context, Classic Autism was first described by Dr. Leo Kanner in the 1940s, laying the foundation for autism research and diagnosis. This form of autism typically manifests in early childhood, with symptoms such as delayed language development, echolalia, and lack of eye contact.

Individuals with Classic Autism often exhibit repetitive behaviours, such as rocking or hand flapping, and may struggle with changes in their environment. These distinct characteristics set Classic Autism apart from other subtypes within the spectrum.

How Are These Types of Autism Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of different types of autism relies on standardized assessment tools such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). These instruments help clinicians evaluate the presence and severity of autism symptoms.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

The DSM-5 is a widely used diagnostic manual that provides criteria for diagnosing mental health conditions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder and its subtypes. Clinicians follow the guidelines outlined in the DSM-5 to assess the presence of core symptoms and determine the appropriate diagnosis.

For Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the DSM-5, the diagnostic criteria encompass persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, along with restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. The DSM-5 recognizes subtypes within the ASD spectrum, such as Asperger’s syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder. Each subtype has distinct features that help differentiate it from classic autism, informing tailored treatment approaches. This classification system plays a crucial role in guiding interventions and support strategies for individuals with varying presentations of ASD.

Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)

The Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) is a behavioural assessment tool used to evaluate the severity of autism symptoms in children. It helps quantify the presence of social, communicative, and behavioural impairments associated with autism spectrum disorders.

Using a structured observation system, the CARS enable clinicians to systematically assess a child’s behaviour in various domains, such as relating to people, imitation, emotional response, and verbal communication.

The scale considers factors like fear, anxiety, and sensory sensitivities, comprehensively evaluating the child’s overall functioning.

Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)

The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) is a standardized assessment tool used to observe and evaluate social communication, play, and repetitive behaviours in individuals suspected of having autism spectrum disorder. It provides structured tasks and activities to assess specific domains of functioning.

ADOS is widely utilized by trained professionals in clinical settings to gather valuable observational data on communication skills, social interaction patterns, and the presence of stereotyped behaviours associated with an autism spectrum disorder. The assessment comprises modules tailored to the individual’s age and language proficiency, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation. By analyzing a range of behaviours across various contexts and situations, ADOS aids in the accurate identification and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, helping to inform treatment plans and interventions.

How Are These Types of Autism Treated?

Treating different types of autism involves a multidisciplinary approach that may include interventions such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and, in some cases, medications. These strategies aim to address the core symptoms of autism and promote skill development and independence.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a structured, evidence-based therapy approach that modifies behaviour through positive reinforcement and prompting. It is commonly used in autism treatment to target social skills, communication abilities, and behavioural challenges.

ABA principles revolve around the idea that by breaking down complex behaviours into smaller components, individuals with autism can learn new skills gradually. Using techniques like shaping, chaining, and fading prompts, ABA therapists provide a systematic way of teaching and reinforcing desired behaviours.

ABA emphasizes the importance of data collection and analysis in measuring progress accurately. Through continuous observation and adjustment of interventions based on the data collected, ABA programs can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual with autism.

ABA therapy is not just about reducing unwanted behaviours; it also aims to teach and reinforce appropriate behaviours, promoting independence and improved quality of life.

Speech Therapy

Speech or speech-language therapy is a therapeutic intervention designed to improve communication skills, language development, and speech articulation in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. It focuses on enhancing verbal and nonverbal communication abilities.

The primary goal of speech therapy in treating autism is to help individuals overcome specific communication challenges, such as difficulties with expressive and receptive language, social communication, and pragmatic language skills. Therapists utilize various techniques, including augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems, to support language development and enhance articulation. Speech therapy sessions often incorporate play-based activities, visual aids, and structured exercises to facilitate speech production and improve communication proficiency.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy aims to enhance an individual’s ability to participate in daily activities and improve functional skills related to self-care, sensory processing, and motor coordination. In autism, occupational therapy interventions focus on promoting independence and adaptive behaviours.

Through personalized therapy sessions, individuals with autism spectrum disorders are encouraged to develop essential life skills and coping mechanisms. By creating a supportive environment that addresses sensory needs and challenges, occupational therapists help individuals regulate their responses to stimuli and enhance their communication abilities. Interventions may target fine and gross motor skills, aiming to improve coordination and agility for better engagement in various activities. The ultimate goal of occupational therapy for individuals with autism is to foster independence, enhance quality of life, and facilitate meaningful participation in daily routines and social interactions.


Medications may be prescribed as part of the treatment plan for autism spectrum disorders to manage specific symptoms such as anxiety, aggression, hyperactivity, or repetitive behaviours. Commonly used medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics, and stimulants.

SSRIs are often used to alleviate anxiety and depression in individuals with ASD by balancing serotonin levels in the brain.

Antipsychotics can help reduce aggression, irritability, and self-injurious behaviours, providing a calming effect on those experiencing these challenges.

Stimulants, on the other hand, are typically prescribed to address symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, helping individuals focus and control their attention.

What Are the Challenges and Stigmas Surrounding These Types of Autism?

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders face various challenges and stigmas that impact their access to resources, social inclusion, and employment opportunities. Misconceptions and stereotypes about autism can lead to discrimination and limited support networks for individuals and families.

Misconceptions and Stereotypes

Misconceptions and stereotypes about autism contribute to the social stigma and discrimination faced by individuals on the autism spectrum. Common myths include associating autism with intellectual disabilities or violent behaviour, reinforcing negative perceptions and limiting opportunities for understanding and acceptance.

Challenging these misconceptions is crucial in creating a more inclusive society where individuals with autism are valued for their unique abilities and perspectives. By promoting accurate information and debunking these harmful stereotypes, we can foster greater awareness, empathy, and support for individuals on the autism spectrum. It’s essential to recognize the diverse range of strengths and challenges that individuals with autism may experience rather than boxing them into narrow and inaccurate assumptions.

Access to Resources and Support

Access to appropriate resources and supportive services is crucial for individuals with autism and their families to address the diverse needs associated with the condition. Disparities in access to healthcare, educational programs, and community support can create barriers to optimal care and inclusion.

Ensuring equitable access to these resources is vital in promoting the overall well-being and development of individuals on the autism spectrum. Comprehensive services that cater to the unique challenges faced by each individual can significantly improve their quality of life. Advocacy plays a critical role in raising awareness, influencing policies, and securing rights for individuals with autism. Community initiatives that foster acceptance, understanding, and inclusivity are essential for creating a supportive environment for individuals and families affected by autism.

Employment Opportunities

Employment opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum are often limited due to societal misconceptions, communication challenges, and the need for supportive accommodations in the workplace.

Organizations must embrace neurodiversity to unlock the full potential of diverse talents. By fostering inclusive workplace environments where different communication styles are respected and reasonable accommodations are provided, it not only benefits employees with autism but also creates a positive impact on the overall workplace culture. Advocating for equal opportunities in the workforce involves addressing biases, offering training programs to enhance understanding, and implementing policies that promote diversity and inclusion.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Asperger’s and PDD-NOS?

Asperger’s and PDD-NOS are both types of autism disorders, but there are some critical differences between them. Difficulties with social interaction and communication typically characterize Asperger’s, while PDD-NOS may also include delays in other areas of development, such as motor skills or cognitive abilities.

Can Asperger’s and PDD-NOS be diagnosed in adults?

Yes, adults can be diagnosed with Asperger’s or PDD-NOS. While these disorders are often diagnosed in childhood, some individuals may not receive a diagnosis until later in life.

What are some common symptoms of Asperger’s and PDD-NOS?

Some common symptoms of Asperger’s and PDD-NOS may include difficulties with social interaction, repetitive behaviours and interests, sensory sensitivities, and problems with communication. However, it’s important to note that each individual with autism may experience these symptoms differently.

How do Asperger’s and PDD-NOS differ from classic autism?

Asperger’s and PDD-NOS are both considered to be on the autism spectrum, along with classic autism. However, classic autism is typically characterized by more severe symptoms in areas such as social interaction and communication, while Asperger’s and PDD-NOS may have milder symptoms.

Is there a cure for Asperger’s or PDD-NOS?

There is currently no known cure for Asperger’s or PDD-NOS. However, with early intervention and therapy, individuals with these disorders can learn coping mechanisms and strategies to help them manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Are there any famous individuals with Asperger’s or PDD-NOS?

Yes, several well-known individuals have been diagnosed with Asperger’s or PDD-NOS, including actor Dan Aykroyd and animal behaviour specialist and autism advocate Temple Grandin. These serve as examples of how individuals with autism can lead successful and fulfilling lives.

Rob Reed

I am a content creator and author with AUDHD (specifically Inattentive-type ADHD and ASD). I was diagnosed at 36 as an adult. Being diagnosed as an adult and not as a child, means that my experience of life has been impacted by Mental Health issues. I hope to use this website to share information that supports others on their personal journey with neurodiversity.