Autistic Spectrum

The autistic spectrum (sometimes referred to as the autism spectrum) is classified as a developmental and behavioral syndrome that commonly results from a combination of traits. Although these traits may be normally found in the general population, some individuals will ultimately inherit, or otherwise show more autistic traits. At the low end of the spectrum would be low-functioning autism which has severe impairments in many different areas. the next step would be Asperger's Syndrome, as well as high-functioning autism, to "normal" behaviour and even perhaps going as far as hypersocialization which would be on the high end of the spectrum.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10), autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are classified as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), as opposed to specific developmental disorders like dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, or dyspraxia. Many people who are diagnosed with any of the Autistic Spectrum disorders are found to be much more likely to end up living in poverty if they are left untreated.

Autistic Spectrum and Pervasive Development Disorders

In practice, autistic spectrum disorder and pervasive developmental disorder are synonymous, but making a distinction can be very valuable. Pervasive Development Disorders refers to those psychological and behavioral developmental disorders which encompass many areas of functioning such as:

  • language and communication,
  • self-help skills,
  • motor coordination,
  • executive function,
  • and scholastic achievement.

The nosological category of pervasive developmental disorders includes syndromes that may be etiologically unrelated to autism, with autistic-like behavior being only one part of the disorder: Rett's syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder

ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Some researchers have shown a possible genetic and behavioral connection between ADHD and autism. As a result of this, some clinicians have suggested that ADHD be included under the category of autism spectrum disorders.

The diagnoses of ADHD along with autism spectrum disorder are becoming more common in children. In very young children, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders symptoms can appear very similar. However, as the child ages, differences will emerge between the two conditions. Children with typical autism will become more socially withdrawn, while when put in a suitable environment, the hyperactivity level reduces substantially. In either event, problems with the child's social skills can develop.

In contrast, the children with ADHD  will rarely calm down as they age, but still will often develop normal social and communication skills. Any problems with social skills experienced by children diagnosed with ADHD may prove to have other causes. Examples of this might include low self-esteem, or difficulty with quiet, and constructive social interaction.

For more information about autism and the autistic community be sure to check out the resources available at answers-about-autism.

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