Autism is a broad term used for a spectrum of disorders called Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). They are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders under one umbrella term and can range from mild to severe manifestations.
ASD is characterized by interpersonal and social impairments, problems in verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive behavior, and is typically noticed by 2-3 years of age.
Of special note is the fact that no people with Autism show absolutely the same characteristics. Autism affects every individual differently, although the areas of difficulty are common. Depending on this, and the intensity of manifested symptoms, ASD has been demarcated into 3 types:
- Classic Autism: This is the disorder that is most identified with when people think of "Autism". Here, the patient experiences significant impairments in language, communication and social skills. Milestones are generally delayed, although many patients are intellectually sound.
- Asperger Syndrome: This disorder is a milder version of the classic type. The chief difference between Asperger Syndrome and Classic Autism is that linguistic development and cognitive abilities are relatively intact in Asperger Syndrome. These patients experience significant social disability and impairments in non-verbal communication.
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS): This is also called "Atypical Autism" and is the diagnosis attached to those people who don't typically fit into the category of either Classic Autism or Asperger Syndrome.