The 4 types of autism and their characteristics

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a set of developmental disorders, with symptoms usually chronic and which can be mild to severe. One in 100 children may appear to have some form of autism spectrum disorder, although recent research in the United States indicates that ASD has a prevalence of 68%.

In general, ASD is characterized by the impairment of the individual’s ability to communicate and enter into social relationships.. It is a complex disorder that affects the development of the individual who suffers from it and is usually diagnosed around the age of 3.

There are different types of autism spectrum disorders. However, this classification has undergone some changes with the publication of the Statistical Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Below we will go over the different subtypes of TSA and the changes reflected in the DSM-V in its latest editions.

DSM-V Modifications Regarding Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

In its fifth edition, the DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association, incorporated changes from the TEA because it eliminated diagnostic criteria that had been used for decades. Indeed, over the years, the ASD has been subject to several modifications in this manual. In its first edition (1952), it was classified under the term “infantile schizophrenia”, which is far from being the current concept. Each of these changes created some controversy, and the new edition of DSM was no exception..

One of the most notable changes from DSM-IV concerns the symptomatology of ASD. If in the fourth edition the diagnostic definition of autism spectrum disorder was characterized by three symptoms known as the triad: impairments in social reciprocity, impairments in language or communication, and a restricted repertoire of interests and activities and repetitive. In the fifth edition, there are only two categories of symptoms: social communication impairments (i.e. it includes the first two preceding categories although it shows some changes from those -ci) and restricted and repetitive behaviors.

In addition, if in DSM-IV autism belonged to “generalized developmental disorders” (TGD). In the DSM-V, this definition has been replaced by “Autism Spectrum Disorders” (ASD), which is included in “Neurodevelopmental Disorders”.

On the other hand, the subcategories of this disorder have also undergone changes. The fourth edition included five subtypes of autism: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrating Disorder, Unspecified Generalized Developmental Disorder (Unspecified TGD), and Rett Syndrome. In the fifth edition, Rett syndrome has been removed, leaving only 4 subtypes.

Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders

But, What are the characteristics of autism? In the following lines we explain it in detail, although it should be borne in mind that all the phenomena described by these differentiated categories, in practice, overlap a lot and share characteristics.

1. Kanner Autism Syndrome

This is the disorder most people associate with autism spectrum disorder, And receives on behalf of Kanner syndrome under Dr. Kranner, a physician who studied and described this disease in the 1930s.

Autistic subjects they have a limited emotional connection with others, And they seem immersed in their own world. They are more likely to show repetitive behaviors, for example, they can organize and rearrange the same group of objects, back and forth for long periods of time. And they are very sensitive individuals to external stimuli such as sound.

That is, they may be stressed or agitated when exposed to specific noises, bright lights or sounds, or they may have insisted on using certain clothes or colors or may want to be located in certain parts of the world. . no apparent reason.

  • To learn more about the symptoms of autism and some lesser known aspects, you can read our article: “Autism: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About This Disorder”

2. Asperger’s syndrome

Asperger’s Syndrome is the most difficult autism spectrum disorder to diagnose and sometimes this diagnosis is usually made later than the previous case. Indeed, these subjects with Asperger’s present an average (high) intelligence which can underestimate the difficulties and the limitations that these subjects present.

The deficit is therefore in the area of ​​skills and social behavior, being large enough to seriously compromise their development and their social and professional integration. In addition, people with Asperger’s syndrome show a lack of empathy, poor psychomotor coordination, do not understand ironies or the double meaning of language, and become obsessed with certain topics.

The cause of Asperger’s syndrome appears to be a dysfunction of several brain circuits, And the affected areas are the amygdala, the frontal and temporal circuits and the cerebellum, areas of the brain involved in the development of the social relationship.

Although the media and the media have helped spread a picture of Asperger’s syndrome in which this condition is described as a mental disorder associated with high intelligence, it should be noted that most of the people grouped into this category do not score a score significantly higher than the normal CI, and a very small number of them score very high.

  • You can read more about this disorder in our article: “Asperger’s Syndrome: 10 Signs to Identify This Disorder”

3. Childhood disintegration disorder or Heller syndrome

This disorder, commonly known as Heller’s syndrome, usually appears over 2 years, Although it could not be diagnosed until 10 years later.

It is similar to previous ASDs in that it affects the same areas (language, social function, and motor skills), although it differs from it by its regressive and sudden character, This can make even the subject himself aware of the problem. People with Heller’s syndrome may develop normally for up to 2 years and after this period experience symptoms characteristic of the disorder. Different studies conclude that this disorder is 10 to 60 times less common than autism. However, its prognosis is worse.

4. Unspecified generalized developmental disorder

When the clinical symptoms presented by the subject with an autism spectrum disorder are too heterogeneous and do not correspond in their entirety to the above three types, the diagnostic label of “unspecified generalized developmental disorder” is used.

The subject with this disorder is characterized by a deficit of social reciprocity, serious communication problems and the existence of particular, restricted and stereotypical interests and activities.

It should be noted that if the other types of autism are already diverse in themselves, in this last category it is even more important to take into account the unique characteristics of each individual, and not to fall into the trap of leaving the label fully explain to the person. This classification system is only an aid that makes it possible to rely on a series of concepts to better understand this condition, but does not exhaust all the possible explanations of what each person experiences or what they need.

Difficulties studying autism

One thing to keep in mind about the different types of autism is that it’s very complicated to study – without falling into the bias.

For example, it is problematic to study the communication patterns of people with autism using their ability to interpret the emotions reflected in the expression of the eyes, as they tend not to pay attention to this. part of the face.

So the inability to interpret these expressions doesn’t make sense that they don’t know how to interpret other people’s emotions, but don’t know how to do it in that particular way, but maybe if they use to. other ways to do it.

In turn, mistakes are made by ignoring these variables contaminating studies can lead to the creation of artificial distinctions between types of autism where only personality variables, motivation to follow directions, etc. really work.

Bibliographical references:

  • Arndt TL, Stodgell C.J., Rodier PM (2005). The teratology of autism. International Journal of Developmental Neurosciences. 23 (2-3): 189-199.
  • Baker, JP (2013). Autism at 70: redrawing the boundaries. The New England Journal of Medicine. 369 (12): 1089-1091.
  • Martos, J. et al (Ed) (2005) Autism: The future is today. Madrid: Imserso-APNA.
  • Monfort, M and Monfort, I (2001). In the spirit 2. Graphic support for the formation of pragmatic skills in children. Entha Edicions.
  • Quill, KA (2000). “Do-Look-Listen-Say. Social and communicational intervention for autistic children ”. Brookes.
  • Szatmari, P. (2006) A Different Mind. Guide for parents. Editorial Paidós.

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