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Akin to Autism

A young child has problems socializing, concentrating and understanding language—is she autistic? Perhaps. But she could also be suffering from one of the other pervasive developmental disorders.

Winter 2006
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RETT’S DISORDER

WHOM IT AFFECTS While it was first believed to occur only in girls, recent studies have suggested Rett’s in boys; complications begin at five months, after a period of normal growth.

HOW IT’S DEFINED Head growth slows; previously acquired hand skills diminish; or movements resembling hand-wringing and hand washing occur.

WHY IT’S NOT AUTISM Decelerated head growth and loss of hand skills are not associated with autism.

CHILDHOOD DISINTEGRATIVE DISORDER

WHOM IT AFFECTS Studies suggest prevalence in boys; unusual behavior begins between ages three and four.

HOW IT’S DEFINED At least two of the following skill sets are lost: language, bowel and bladder control, social skills, desire to play.

WHY IT’S NOT AUTISM Symptoms develop after two years; in autism, abnormalities are usually observed within the child’s first year.

ASPERGER’S SYNDROME

WHOM IT AFFECTS Although signs are present from birth, parents generally notice them when children begin to interact with same-age children around the age of three.

HOW IT’S DEFINED Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior focus on one topic or interest; lack of desire to establish friendships; display of higher talents, such as “adult” vocabulary.

WHY IT’S NOT AUTISM Asperger’s patients tend to amass information on narrow topics such as TV listings; early cognitive and language skills are not significantly delayed in the first few years.

ATYPICAL AUTISM

WHOM IT AFFECTS Research suggests prevalence in males, often in the profoundly retarded; symptoms manifest only after age three.

HOW IT’S DEFINED Characteristics can include impairment in social interaction, problems with communication, repetitive behavior—the three major criteria for autistic disorder.

WHY IT’S NOT AUTISM Symptoms come close to those for clinical diagnosis of autism but arise often in severely retarded individuals; characteristics emerge later in life or individuals do not meet all three criteria.

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