Understanding the Classification of Autism, Asperger's Syndrome and PDD

February 10, 2015

Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterized by delays in language skills, communication, and age appropriate social skills. In addition, children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder may present with restricted and repetitive activities and interests. They may also experience difficulties with imaginative play, as well as fine and gross motor control.

Other early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder include:

  • Failing to respond to his or her name, child makes little to no eye contact
  • Resisting change or transitions, and requires sameness
  • Refraining from using gestures (pointing) and facial expressions (playing peek-a-boo) to communicate
  • Scripting words or phrases from television or radio
  • Preferring to be alone
  • Demonstrates repetitive play behavior such as watching the tires spin on a toy car, rather than actually rolling the car
  • Showing little to no thematic play behaviors such as pretend play (using a banana as a phone)
  • Acting out obsessive compulsive behaviors
  • Failing to recognize dangerous or unsafe situations, such as running into the street
  • Food selectivity where he or she prefers certain textures or has a limited diet of only 5-10 food items
  • Presenting difficulties in toilet training
  • Often throwing tantrums

Previously these symptoms were diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), or Asperger’s Disorder. However, in May 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) was published and significant changes were made to these diagnoses. Currently, PDD-NOS and Asperger’s Disorder both fall under the umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder and are no longer recognized as independent diagnoses. The American Psychiatric Association has developed a system with detailed criteria to differentiate between the varying degrees of severity seen in those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

These are:

  • Level 1 – “Requiring Support”
  • Level 2 – “Requiring Substantial Support”
  • Level 3 – “Requiring Very Substantial Support”

For more information about Autism Spectrum Disorder and treatment options available, please contact us at 813-814-2000.

*This is not a complete listing of signs and symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder, nor does it replace a formal diagnosis, rather it is meant as a helpful tool for parents who may have concerns regarding their child’s development and skill acquisition. If you feel your child is not advancing at the rate of his or her peers, please contact us to schedule an assessment or make an appointment with your developmental and behavioral pediatrician.

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