There has been some controversy in recent years regarding the classification of autistic spectrum disorders.
In America, ‘Asperger’s’ is no longer a separate classification, a decision made to simplify the classifications but also because of recognition that symptoms of autistic disorders are often not clearly defined across the spectrum. The UK still uses the separate classifications, but as the International Classification of Diseases used in the UK is often led by America’s DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) we may expect to see changes at some stage.
Classic autism – this can be one of the most severe types of autism. Symptoms include:
Asperger’s – often people with Asperger’s have milder symptoms and normal or above normal intelligence. Commonly people with Asperger’s did not have language delays as a child but may have struggled with co-ordinator and fine motor skills.
The triad of impairments are very commonly experienced by those with Asperger’s and particular Asperger’s symptoms may include:
You can read more about Hans Asperger here.
Pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified – people with PDD (NOS) often experience more severe symptoms than those with Asperger’s but less so than those with classic autism. The term PDD (NOS) is often used for those people who have some but not all of the symptoms of autism or Asperger’s, for instance difficulties with social communication and interaction but no obsessive interests.
High functioning autism and Asperger’s are very closely linked, in fact some argue they are one and the same thing and the terms can confusingly be used interchangeably. It was often thought that the difference between the two was based on language development but even that is often debated. As more research is carried out into autistic spectrum disorders, classifications will hopefully become less debatable and less confusing for those with the condition.
A diagnosis of autism can really make a difference to someone, suddenly they have a way of defining the difficulties they have experienced throughout their life. Whilst there is no cure for autism, there are some useful therapies that can teach effective coping mechanisms and behaviours. As many with autism also struggle with other mental health conditions, an assessment with a psychiatrist who has experience of working with those with autism can be really important.
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