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Is Autism And Autistic Disorder The Same Thing

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Autism – Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & More

For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institutes Brain Resources and Information Network at:

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All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

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What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Previously Called Autism And Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by the following:

  • Difficulties in social communication differences, including verbal and nonverbal communication.
  • Deficits in social interactions.
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities and sensory problems

Many of those with ASD can have delayed or absence of language development, intellectual disabilities, poor motor coordination and attention weaknesses.

Autism Vs Mental Retardation

What is the difference between mental retardation and autism?

I guess the simplest way to delineate the difference between the two is to define what each condition is. Mental retardation, by the way, is not a diagnosis used much by medical professionals anymore. It requires a score on a standardized intelligence test, at least two standard deviations below the norm. How this translates into numbers is as follows if normal are 100 then 2 standard deviations below that are 50-75 approximately. Mental retardation is an assessment of the patients cognitive functioning. How their intelligence is rated to everyone else who took the exam, of the same age. Intelligence tests are not great predictors of future success or ability. Why is that the case? First of all they are culturally biased, so if the person, who is taking the test, does not share the same culture as the test maker has, they will score lower. If the test is not age appropriate, again the score on the test might not reflect their true abilities. There are different tests for different age groups all of these tests have their problems.

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What Conditions Are Considered Spectrum Disorders

Until recently, experts talked about different types of autism, such as autistic disorder, Aspergerâs syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified . But now they are all called âautism spectrum disorders

If you still hear people use some of the older terms, youâll want to know what they mean:

Asperger’s syndrome. This is on the milder end of the autism spectrum. A person with Asperger’s may be very intelligent and able to handle their daily life. They may be really focused on topics that interest them and discuss them nonstop. But they have a much harder time socially.

Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified . This mouthful of a diagnosis included most children whose autism was more severe than Asperger’s syndrome, but not as severe as autistic disorder.

Autistic disorder. This older term is further along the autism spectrum than Aspergerâs and PDD-NOS. It includes the same types of symptoms, but at a more intense level.

Childhood disintegrative disorder. This was the rarest and most severe part of the spectrum. It described children who develop normally and then quickly lose many social, language, and mental skills, usually between ages 2 and 4. Often, these children also developed a seizure disorder.

Don’t Perpetuate Stigma And Misunderstanding Around Autism

My son does this same thing

That said, there’s one thing you should never do.

Taking any of the words used to describe autism to say something negative about a person is incredibly disrespectful. You are taking something that should be celebrated and making it an insult.

The same goes for words previously used to describe intellectual disability getting thrown around as insults.

These words carry with them a history of misunderstanding and stigma. And if you use them in this way, you are helping perpetuate that.

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What Is The Difference Between Autism And Autistic

They are one and the same. The Autism Spectrum Disorder is the clinical definition for autism. Some people chose to be referred to as an autistic person, while others prefer to be referred to a person with autism.

Autism Community

One of the main things I like to explain is that people with autism have varied abilities and character traits, theres not one single experience of autism.

Zoran Bekric

Autism Community

I have Aspergers syndrome and that means Im sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower.

Greta Thunberg

Autism Community

I would play with numbers in a way that other kids would play with their friends.

Daniel Tammet

Autism Community

People on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space.

Steve Silberman

Autism Community

Everyone has a mountain to climb and autism has not been my mountain, it has been my opportunity for victory.

Rachel Barcellona

Autism Community

Although people with autism look like other people physically, we are in fact very different in many ways. We are more like travellers from the distant, distant past. And if, by being here, we could help the people of the world remember what truly matters for the Earth, that would give us a quiet pleasure.

Naoki Higashida

Lack Of Acceptance By Professionals

Problem: There is sometimes a lack of acceptance by professionals that ASD can coexist in a child with Down syndrome who has cognitive impairment. They may feel an additional label is not necessary or accurate. Parents may be told, This is part of low functioning Down syndrome. We now know this is incorrect. Children with DS-ASD are clearly distinguishable from children with Down syndrome alone or those who have Down syndrome and severe cognitive impairment when standardized diagnostic assessment tools such as the ABC are used.

Result: Parents become frustrated and may give up trying to obtain more specific medical treatment or behavioral intervention.

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Myth: People With Autism Can’t Feel Or Express Emotion Or Understand The Emotions Of Others

Truth: People on the spectrum enjoy a wide range of emotions like neurotypical people, but they often express their emotions in different ways. Although some people with autism may have trouble deciphering unspoken communication or tones of voice, the majority can feel empathy when someone clearly expresses their emotions.

Myth: People With Autism Don’t Want Friends

ADHD and Autism: Are They One and the Same? – Dr. C’s Morning Minute 168

Truth: Surely, there are some people with autism who choose to stay away from other people, but the vast majority enjoy socializing and want to have friends. But some dont know how to interact with others, and they may make social mistakes that leave them feeling anxious about interacting with people in the future.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Asd

Not all people with ASD will have all of the signs and symptoms of the disorder, although most will experience several. Signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder include:

  • Making little or no eye contact
  • Not looking at or listening to people
  • Failure to respond to someone trying to get their attention
  • Having problems having back-and-forth conversations
  • Having facial expressions, gestures, and movements that don’t match what’s being said
  • An unusual tone of voice
  • Trouble understanding others’ points of view or predicting others’ actions
  • Unusual behaviors or repeating certain behaviors
  • Intense, lasting interest in certain topics
  • Overly focused interests
  • Inability to cope with changes in routine
  • Greater or lesser sensitivity than neurotypical people to sensory input, such as noise or temperature

People with autism also have marked strengths, which may include:

The ability to remember information for a long time

Being a strong visual and auditory learner

Excelling in a particular subject, such as math, art, or music

Obstacles To Diagnosing Ds

“If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck…guess what?”

Parents sometimes face unnecessary obstacles in seeking help for their children. Parents have shared several reasons demonstrating this. Some of the more common include:

Failure to recognize the dual diagnosis:


Failure to recognize the dual diagnosis except in the most severe cases.


This is frustrating for everyone who is actively seeking solutions for a child. If you are in this situation and feel that your concerns are not taken seriously, keep trying. The best advice is to trust your gut feeling regarding your child. Eventually you will find someone willing to look at all the possibilities with you.

Diagnostic confusion:

Diagnostic confusion with other behavioral or psychiatric conditions such as ADHD, OCD or depression.


Lack of acceptance by professionals regarding the possibility of a dual diagnosis for anyone with Down syndrome:


There is sometimes a lack of acceptance by professionals that ASD can co-exist in a child with Down syndrome who has cognitive impairment. They may feel an additional label is not necessary or accurate. Parents may be told, “This is part of ‘low functioning’ Down syndrome.” We now know this is incorrect. Children with DS-ASD are clearly distinguishable from children with Down syndrome alone or those who have Down syndrome and severe cognitive impairment when standardized diagnostic assessment tools such as the ABC are used.



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Myth: People With Autism Are Intellectually Challenged

Truth: Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental, not an intellectual, disorder. This means that people who have autism generally have a normal IQ and can excel in many pursuits. In fact, 44 percent of children identified with autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability.

Challenges With Repetitive Or Restrictive Behaviors

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Repetitive behaviors would also take on many forms. Some typical behaviors include repeatedly flapping or tapping items with the hand. Other fine-motor behaviors like finger-picking also fit into this category. Body-rocking is also a common behavior. Restrictive behaviors refer to things done with little to no variation. This could include having to do activities in the same order or with the same people.

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Limitations Of Asd Levels

Although the ASD levels are useful for indicating autism severity and support needs, the categories arent comprehensive. They can be subjective and lacking in nuance, and the DSM-5 offers little specificity regarding the types of support indicated or situations in which support is needed. For example, some autistic people need support at school but are fine at home, while others may do well at school but struggle in social situations.

Whats more, the level a person is assigned when theyre first diagnosed can shift as they develop and refine social skills and as the severity of issues such as anxiety or depression, common among people with autism, fluctuates.

The bottom line: Being assigned one of the three levels of autism can be useful for understanding how high- or low-functioning someone is likely to be and determining what types of services and supports would serve them best. It wont, however, predict or account for nuances in their personality and behavior, which means the support and services they receive will need to be highly individualized.

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Psychiatry Uk And Asd Assessments

ASD assessments performed by Psychiatry UK Consultants involve filling in an ASD Pre-assessment Questionnaire in advance of the assessment, followed by an online assessment which can take up to two hours. In the first instance we meet with the patient for one hour if additional time is necessary either with the patient or an informant, a further appointment will be arranged.

It is advisable that prior to asking for an ASD assessment you take an AQ10 screening test if the score is lower than 7 out of 10, the likelihood of a diagnosis of ASD is low, therefore we do not recommend you have an assessment, unless you would like us to rule it out.

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Level : Requiring Substantial Support

People with ASD level 2 will have more obvious problems with verbal and social communication than those diagnosed with level 1. Likewise, they will find it harder to change focus. They might, for example, get very upset when they have to move from one activity to the next or to leave school at the end of the day.

Children with level 2 tend to have very narrow interests and engage in repetitive behaviors that can make it difficult for them to function in certain situations.

A person diagnosed with ASD level 2 tends to speak in simple sentences and also struggles with nonverbal forms of communication.

How Common Is Autism Spectrum Disorder

What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Based on most recent CDC report, ASD is estimated to affect about 1 in 54 children, with boys being more likely to have ASD than girls. There were more than 5 million adults in the US, or 2.21% of the population, with ASD as of 2017. Government statistics suggest that the prevalence of ASD has risen 10% to 17% in recent years.

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Characteristics Of Autism And Aspergers

Characteristics of Aspergers vary from individual to individual. However, there are certain symptoms shown by an individual that makes the diagnosis possible. These are:

  • Persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction
  • Restricted and repetitive behaviors

Aspergers Syndrome is no longer a stand alone diagnosis with publishing of DSM-V. The characteristics may seem really similar to that of autism.

Here is a summary of diagnostic criteria used of Aspergers Syndrome:

  • Difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Lack of interest in taking part in activities
  • Tendency to be alone
  • Limited interest in certain topics
  • Strict adherence to routines
  • Not having delayed language or cognitive development

Aside from not having delayed language or cognitive development, all symptoms can also be seen in individuals with autism.

How Is Asd Diagnosed

ASD symptoms can vary greatly from person to person depending on the severity of the disorder. Symptoms may even go unrecognized for young children who have mild ASD or less debilitating handicaps.

Autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed by clinicians based on symptoms, signs, and testing according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V, a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders. Children should be screened for developmental delays during periodic checkups and specifically for autism at 18- and 24-month well-child visits.

Very early indicators that require evaluation by an expert include:

  • no babbling or pointing by age 1
  • no single words by age 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
  • no response to name
  • excessive lining up of toys or objects
  • no smiling or social responsiveness

Later indicators include:

  • impaired ability to make friends with peers
  • impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
  • absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
  • repetitive or unusual use of language
  • abnormally intense or focused interest
  • preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
  • inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals

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Check For Physical Issues

Few people with severe autism have the ability to describe physical symptoms or problems. Thus, its a good idea to start by checking whether a child with severe autism has physical symptoms that may be exacerbating problem behaviors.

Its not uncommon, for example, to discover that a childs apparently aggressive behavior is actually a response to severe gastrointestinal painpain which can be treated through dietary changes. Once the pain is gone, the person finds it much easier to relax, engage, learn, and behave appropriately.

What Are The Risks Or Complications Of Aspergers Syndrome

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As mentioned before, Aspergers syndrome may coexist with other psychiatric conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or anxiety disorder. Even when anxiety disorder is not present, people with Aspergers syndrome may suffer from anxiety or hypersensitivity to certain stimuli such as loud noises. In some cases, disruptive behaviors and/or depression may occur in response to the anxiety and frustration experienced by sufferers of Aspergers syndrome. Other behaviors that have been reported in people with Aspergers syndrome include obsessive-compulsive behaviors and difficulties with anger management.

As with any condition, the degree of severity of symptoms can vary widely among individuals, and not all persons with Aspergers syndrome will experience associated psychiatric disorders, depression, or disruptive behaviors.

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What Are The Treatments For Aspergers Syndrome

Treatment of Aspergers syndrome involves a multidisciplinary approach.

Medical therapy is not effective in treating Asperger syndrome, although medications may be prescribed to help control troubling symptoms or symptoms of other psychiatric conditions that may coexist with Aspergers syndrome. In some cases, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications are used for relief of anxiety or depression. Medical treatments for ADHD may also be tried if there is significant hyperactivity and/or distraction.

A number of behavioral therapies and educational interventions can help people with Aspergers syndrome, although all of these may not be necessary in a given individual. The type of interventions chosen must be based upon the individuals age and needs. Types of interventions that have been shown to be of benefit include:

How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated

ASD is most often a life-long condition. Both children and adults with autism benefit from behavioral interventions or therapies that can teach new skills to address the core deficits of autism and to reduce the core symptoms. Every child and adult with autism is unique. For this reason, the treatment plan is individualized to meet specific needs. It is best to begin interventions as soon as possible, so the benefits of therapy can continue on throughout the course of life.

Many people with ASD often have additional medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal and feeding issues, seizures and sleep disturbances. Treatment can involve behavioral therapy, medications or both.

Early intensive behavioral treatments involves the entire family and possibly a team of professionals. As your child ages and develops, treatment may be modified to cater to their specific needs.

During adolescence, children benefit from transition services that promote skills of independence essential in adulthood. The focus at that point is on employment opportunities and job skill training.

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