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Autism is a complex developmental disability with many different levels of severity. Technically, there is a diagnosis that is autism. However, people refer to pervasive developmental disorders as autism spectrum disorders or autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Autism spectrum disorders are brain development disorders that cause poor social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. Autism is just one of five different types of autism disorders.

Below are the definitions and characteristics of the five different autism disorders.

Classic autism:

Autism is the second most important child development disorder and is considered the most serious of the different types of autism disorders. People with classical autism develop language late or not at all. Individuals affected by Classical Autism have difficulty speaking with other people or a profound lack of affection or emotional contact with others, an intense desire for uniformity in routines, muteness or abnormal speech, high levels of visuospatial abilities, but great learning difficulties in other areas. The symptoms of autism usually appear during the first three years of childhood and continue throughout life. Autism is a spectrum disorder because the severity of impairment in each of these areas differs from person to person.

Asperger syndrome:

A person with Asperger syndrome can exhibit a variety of characteristics, and the disorder can range from mild to severe. Children show deficits in social skills and have difficulty with transitions or changes. They compulsively cling to rituals and any change in their routine can upset them. They have great difficulty reading body language and determining proper body space. Some children with Asperger syndrome have reduced sensitivity to pain and increased sensitivity to bright lights and loud noises. With this type of autism disorders they also have average or above average intelligence.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder:

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder includes a severe regression in communication skills, social behavior, and all developmental motor skills. At first these children seem perfectly normal. They begin to regress between the ages of 2 to 4 years. At that time these children stop socializing, lose the ability to go to the bathroom, stop playing, lose motor skills and stop making friends.

Rett syndrome:

Rett syndrome is a neurological and developmental disorder that occurs primarily in women and is characterized by poor growth of the head. Loss of muscle tone is usually the first symptom. Other early symptoms may include trouble crawling or walking and decreased eye contact. They stop using their hands to do things and often develop stereotyped hand movements, such as squirming, clapping, or patting their hands. The inability to perform motor functions is perhaps the most severely disabling feature of Rett syndrome, interfering with all body movements, including gaze and speech. Babies with Rett syndrome appear to grow and develop normally at first, but then stop developing and even lose skills and abilities.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified:

This tends to describe people who have many or all of the different types of autism disorders. Children with PDDNOS do not fully meet the symptom criteria used to diagnose any of the four specific types above and/or do not have the degree of disability described in any of the four specific types above.

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