Autism Umbrella: Autism Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, CDD, PDD-NOS & Rett Syndrome

Since autism is a spectrum disorder which means there is no certain level for anyone about autism, it can be said that autism is an umbrella term. It includes different levels and severity. Nevertheless, in order to give better treatment and intervention to individuals on the spectrum, there is a couple of specific diagnoses. These can be listed as;

  • Autism Disorder
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
  • Rett Syndrome


Individuals diagnosed with autism always have something to discover and learn about. Although their individual characteristics, strengths, or needs do not vary much, they always remain unknown. Therefore, they can show mobility within the spectrum. The diagnosis they receive today may reach more serious dimensions 10 years later, or their symptoms may be alleviated.

While getting an accurate diagnosis of autism is critical at first, learning how to serve them will be more critical as well. The social, behavioral, and academic needs of the autistic individual must be met fully or to the maximum extent. For the growth and development of the society we live in, it is important to provide the necessary support to individuals with autism and to participate in society.

Autism is actually called an umbrella term for the variety of neurodevelopmental disorders it represents. If there is an individual with autism around you, it is very important to understand the types and symptoms of autism in terms of facilitating both the life of the individual with autism and yours. While the problems presented by each type of autism are more or less similar, they are actually unique. Understanding these problems and their causes guides you in helping a person with autism cope with their autism.



Autism Disorder


It is also known as classical autism. This type is the first thing you can recall when you hear the word autism. It is actually what people think of when they hear the expression. Those individuals with this type of autism have significant language delays, social problems, communication problems, unusual behavior, and interests. This is the one that is considered the most severe and also the most common type.

People who have this type of autism don’t like people to touch them, have problems performing restricted behavior in improper times and places, experience all senses and feelings in extremes, feel overwhelmed most of the time, and have severe problems with communication. People with autism disorder have the same symptoms as others on the spectrum, however, these people experience these symptoms at more severe levels.

While there are some symptoms that parents can understand easily, there are also some others that cannot be observed easily. These children repeat things they hear, do not have enough ability to play with toys, act like they do not hear anything when they are called or told something, perform repetitive moments, look meaningless for a long time, and are very dependent on their routines.



Asperger’s Syndrome


After the DSM-5 diagnostic guide was published in 2013, a decrease was observed in individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Changes to the DSM-5 are thought to cause this difference. The term Asperger’s syndrome is now referred to as Level 1 Autism. However, the term Asperger’s Syndrome is still widely used in order to explain it more easily to families. At the same time, autism communities continue to use the term Asperger’s.

Although individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome have above-average intelligence, they have great difficulties in social communication. Individuals at this point of autism cannot show flexibility in their thoughts and behaviors, have difficulty in switching between tasks and even prefer not to, have a monotonous speech pattern, cannot express their emotions, cannot change their tone of voice or understand the difference even if someone else does it, have difficulty communicating with their peers, and has problems with executive functioning.

Individuals with Asperger’s syndrome, compared to others on the autism spectrum, have extraordinary and special talents and interests. These specialties can be positive or negative. They can be extremely intelligent, can handle their lives alone, can focus on specific topics for longer time periods, and so on, however, they may have difficult times while spending time with others. 

We are aware of the fact that children get diagnosed with autism in the first 3 years of their lives, on the other hand, children with Asperger’s syndrome can live longer without getting any diagnoses. It can be understood that there is a problem after their first speech retardation is experienced and observed. Even though children with Asperger’s syndrome are more talkative than children on the autism spectrum, still you will understand that the pattern is not as it is supposed to be. Individuals with Asperger’s can understand that they won’t adapt to society easily while other individuals on the autism spectrum never understand. This awareness may result in some psychological problems but can be handled with the help of therapies. 

Since Asperger’s Syndrome and some other psychological disorders have common symptoms, individuals with Asperger’s may get misdiagnosed. These diagnoses can be OCD or ADHD which are the very common ones. These can come with Asperger’s as well. 



Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)


It is also known as Heller’s syndrome. It is even referred to as disintegrative psychosis due to some symptoms. It is understood that there is a problem when the classic autism symptoms begin to be observed. Developmental delays are observed in the language, motor skills, or social interaction. These delays appear out of nowhere. The child begins to show these symptoms at the age of 13, for example, rather than at the age of 3, as children with a typical autism diagnosis. These developmental delays, which begin to be experienced suddenly, can be very distressing and worn out for parents as well.

It is very challenging to understand whether your child has CDD or not. Because of the fact that these individuals mostly do not show any sign or show very little. Then, one day, out of nowhere, their developmental regressions start. They start to show what individuals on the autism spectrum show. Experts mostly observe a connection between CDD and seizure disorders, because of this reason it is important to choose a professional who knows autism better. Apart from diagnoses, early intervention is very important as well. In order to help these children, early intervention takes a huge place. 

The cause of CDD, as with other types of autism, is not fully known. It is observed more frequently in boys and the rate is quite high compared to girls. It is imperative that children diagnosed with CDD experience these regressions suddenly. And these severe regressions should be observed at least 2 times. The child begins to suddenly lose certain skills and abilities. These skills may be toilet skills, vocabulary, social skills, motor skills, or adaptive behaviors.



Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)


Children with PPD NOS, are actually the ones who do not have real autism. Because of the fact that they don’t meet autism symptom diagnostic criteria but the symptoms they have shown look like autism. It happens mostly because of the delay. These delays and regressions mostly begin to be observed after the age of 3. These individuals with PDD-NOS are the individuals who require lifelong medicine and special education. 

It is considered the type of autism with the mildest symptoms under the autism umbrella. The most prominent symptoms are observed as difficulties in social communication and language development. There may be delays in language development and some motor skills. The important thing is to observe them correctly. If there is a lack of communication with others, it should be noted and the doctor should be asked for help.



Rett Syndrome

It is a type of autism that is only observed in girls. Especially when they reach the age of 4, regressions and delays already start to be observed. The most prominent sign of this type of autism is stopping the growth of the head after a certain time period. These children mostly get diagnoses up to 18 months old because it has very obvious and physical signs. Children enter stagnation very quickly and the regression process starts very early. 

While Rett Syndrome and typical autism share the typical symptoms, children with Rett Syndrome start to show physical symptoms and regressions until they reach about 6 months old. When the child gets old, more severe symptoms start to be observed. These severe symptoms can be difficulties breathing, mental retardation, grinding teeth, seizures, and growth delays. 

Lifelong care is essential for children with Rett Syndrome. There are different treatment methods that should be followed in terms of the child’s needs. Treatments include mostly different therapies and each of them targets different areas and aims for different strengths. 



Atypical Autism


It is also quite possible for children to be misdiagnosed under the umbrella of autism. Because of the fact that autism is a broad umbrella, misdiagnosis is unfortunately very common. In this regard, a mother has a story and many complaints about her daughter being misdiagnosed with atypical autism. After her child received this diagnosis, she started to become more involved in the autism community, and as the days passed, she witnessed that this situation was not at all negligible.

The mother wondered why children were so often misdiagnosed. She wondered if children were misdiagnosed because the medical world was incompetent, because doctors were making a cursory diagnosis, or because parents were raising their children in a wrong way. While such questions preoccupied the mother’s mind, the answers to these questions could only be given by experts. But it was clear that so many misdiagnoses were no coincidence. 

This is why it should not be forgotten that autism is an umbrella. It is very important to understand that autism is an umbrella and how to position your child under this umbrella in order to raise awareness of autism. What autism is and what it is not must be properly understood first by the parents and then by society.

If awareness about what autism is, parents can see the positives more easily. There is a hidden talent in every sensitivity in autism. Families should first be told about the positive sides of autism so that they can embrace the gift in their lives with hope, not tears. Children on the autism spectrum and their families, since they are under the umbrella of autism, they always have to live with autism and its side effects. 



Atypical autism is perhaps the most interesting type of autism because of the fact that it is not real autism. Individuals with atypical autism have some symptoms but not enough amount to get a typical autism diagnosis. They show mild symptoms. This diagnosis is made mostly in early childhood, even before the age of 3. It causes misdiagnosis sometimes. Individuals in this group have the lowest number of common symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. 

They do not have intelligence problems. So, their probability to recover is the highest. Instead of recovery, we can say that the benefit they get from therapies is the most beneficial ones. Intensive education and proper treatments are very helpful in terms of their development. 

The most important feature that makes the difference between typical autism and atypical autism is definitely the early diagnosis. Because of the fact that it affects everything that comes after the diagnosis. With the correct treatment and proper intervention, it is highly possible to overcome speech and communication problems.

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