Different Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders


Ever since DSM-5 was drafted, Autism has been established as a spectrum disorder.

But, what does it actually mean? Does it mean that there are varying types of autism spectrum disorders? Or is it just one disorder? As counselors for children with ASD, we are regularly asked such questions.

We have put this blog post together to answer your queries related to the terminology of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We’ll also address how the categorization has evolved over the years.

The American Psychiatric Association is responsible for the creation of a manual called the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder.’ The DSM-4 listed each diagnosis separately - Asperger’s Syndrome, Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Rett Syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Syndrome.

These classifications of diagnoses were confusing - in a way that different practitioners often diagnosed a child with ASD differently. To tackle this problem, therapists and teachers started using terms like mild autism, severe autism, and high functioning autism. These descriptions too had their own challenges. Therapists and practitioners had their respective classification of mild and severe.

Therefore, in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder. Now, all of these various disorders fall under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children with ASD, no matter the severity, are categorized under autism spectrum disorder.

Quick Guide to DSM-5 Criteria [Infographic]

Based on the DSM – V, autism spectrum describes a set of disorders and developmental delays that affect communication skills, social skills, and to a certain extent language and motor skills. Individuals with ASD can be talkative or silent, organized or disorganized, warm and affectionate or cold and distant. Based on classifications given by therapists and teachers, the DSM-5 was updated with three levels of support for individuals with ASD.

  • Level 3 – requiring very substantial support

  • Level 2 – requiring substantial support

  • Level 1 – requiring support

Individuals at a severity level of three have severe verbal and nonverbal social communication deficits. They may have difficulty in functioning, limited initiations and response to social interactions. They can often be found engaging in repetitive behavior, experiencing difficulties in coping with change, and with focusing on a specific subject.

Individuals who are at a severity level of two do have similar difficulties as individuals who are at level three. However, their difficulties may not be as severe. Such individuals have reduced abnormal responses in social interactions, however, verbal and nonverbal social communication skills will have marked deficits. They may not perform repetitive actions as much. It can get stressful for them to adjust to change.

For individuals who are at a severity level of one, lack of proper support can cause deficits in social communication and impairments, if left undiagnosed. These individuals may not respond as effectively in a social setting and may even appear disinterested. They may face difficulty switching between activities, and difficulty in planning or organizing.

Autism spectrum disorder affects different people in different ways. The best thing you as a parent can do, is to talk to therapists, practitioners, counselors, and teachers regularly, so you understand the associated terminology. It may take a while for you to grasp them, but once you do – the knowledge can help your child in many ways. It helps you in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your child at home.

We hope you found this article helpful. Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and opinions by commenting below.

#autismspectrumdisorder #AutismSpectrum #AutismResearch #UAEAutism #AutismSpectrumDisorder #ASDBehavior #ASDSupport #ASDParents #ASDNetwork #MildASD #ASD #DSMV #DSM5

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