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Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism is also called “early infantile autism,” “childhood autism,” “Kanner's syndrome,” and “classical autism.” Technically it is “autistic disorder” and it is classified as a Pervasive Developmental Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM IV) (1994).

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects communication, social interaction skills and behaviour. Diagnosis usually occurs within the first three years of life and is a lifelong disorder. Autism cannot be diagnosed through medical tests. A diagnosis is based on careful observation of child’s behaviour, level of communication, and social development. A diagnosis of autism is made by a regulated health professional, such as a pediatrician or psychologist.

Autism occurs among all ethnic, social, educational and income groups. In Canada  approximately 1 in 100 children may have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to the Canadian Autism Intervention Research Network. Four times as many boys are affected by this disorder than girls.

There are five Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD): Autistic Disorder, Rett’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorders (Not Otherwise Specified).

• Autistic Disorder (AD):

The behavioural characteristics associated with autism are: significant difficulties with social interaction, verbal and non verbal communication, development of play (imaginative play a challenge), highly restricted, repetitive and stereotypy, highly resistant to change. Autistic disorder is considered to be at the severe end of the autism spectrum.

• Rett’s Syndrome:

Differs from autism primarily in that it is associated with loss of previously acquired hand skills between ages 5 months and 30 months and onset of severe or profound mental retardation. Motor skills are replaced with repetitive movements of the hands. Disorder appears to be very rare. Little behavioral research has been conducted with persons with these diagnosis.

• Childhood Disintegrative Disorder:

This is diagnosed when a child shows significant losses in social behavior, language, play and adaptive behavior after development was apparently normal for at least the first 2 years, and before 10 years of age. Disorder appears to be very rare. Little behavioral research has been conducted with persons with these diagnosis.

• Asperger’s Disorder:

Asperger’s differs from Autistic Disorder in that impairment is primarily within the domain of social interactions. No significant delay in the development of other adaptive behaviour, cognition, and language. Stereotypy or repetitive patterns of behavior or rituals must also be present. This disorder tends to be diagnosed later, usually after 3 years of age. This may be due to  the characteristics being less noticeable, or the disorder has a later age onset. There has not been much research on this however the most relevant work to date, are studies that included persons with autism characterized as "high functioning", persons referred specifically due to difficulties in social interaction, or persons labeled "with autistic features" or PDD NOS.

• PDD (NOS):

This is sometimes referred to as ‘atypical autism’ and is characterized by severe impairments in reciprocal social interaction, or communication skills are not present, or when stereotyped and restricted activities and interests are exhibited, but the criteria listed for the other four disorders in the spectrum are not met completely. This is a borderline category hence ‘not otherwise specified’ label.
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