We are all more alike than different…
There is a popular series of television commercials that
have aired over the past two years emphasizing an important fact. In one
commercial, there is a young boy being strapped
into his car seat by his mother and it said: The chances of your child being
in a fatal car accident: 1 in 25,000. The chances of your child having
Autism: 1 in 150. Another commercial depicted a little girl dancing and
singing the song “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” It stated: The chances of
your child starring in a Broadway production: 1 in 12,000. The chances of
having Autism: 1 in 150. The purpose of “bringing to life” those
odds is not to establish a negative tone but the complete opposite: to
educate and make the public aware that Autism exists and it is time to
listen! Autism Speaks is responsible for creating those
commercials and it is an important organization that attempts to educate the
public and as such, has become a vital part of the “cure.”
What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the Autism
Spectrum consists of five variations collectively referred to as the
Pervasive Developmental Disorders: Autism, Pervasive Developmental
Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Rett’s Syndrome (Rett),
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) and Asperger’s Syndrome. Therefore,
the statistic 1 in 150 refers to any one of the aforementioned conditions.
What is the Spectrum?
An individual often hears, “Oh, he’s on the spectrum.”
According to Stillman (2007), there are many degrees of Autism from highly
functional to noncommunicative, and the spectrum refers to a range in which
a child’s autism-related symptoms fall. In reality, all social and
emotional conditions are part of a spectrum, which means that there are
different severity levels of symptoms from few if any symptoms to exhibiting
many characteristics of the condition.
What is Autism?
As previously mentioned, Autism is part of a broader
condition known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or the more
commonly used term, an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASDs refer to a
complex group of related disorders marked by impaired communication and
socialization as well as by a limited range of interests. Autism is a
complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout an
individual’s life. At the present time, there is no permanent cure. Boys
are four times more likely than girls to have Autism.
Autism is characterized by severe or pervasive
impairment in one’s ability to communicate effectively and to relate to
others. In addition, the presence of repetitive patterns of behavior and
rigid routines, interests, or activities are typically associated with
What are the common
characteristics of Autism?
Stillman (2007) outlines numerous distinctive
The individual may:
Seem challenged in communicating through the use of
nonverbal communications such as making eye contact or using appropriate
facial expression, body language, and gestures
Experience a delay in speech and language skills
which may include difficulty with initiating as well as maintaining a
socially appropriate conversation
Seem to have difficulty developing friendships with
same-age children and may prefer to play alone
Refer to him/herself in the third person or may
repeat the same words and phrases
Have a strong preoccupation with a certain item or
Engage in specific rituals or routines. If
disrupted, the individual may become upset
Engage in physical movements such as body rocking,
flapping hands, or spinning the body
What is Pervasive Developmental
Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)?
As noted by Stillman (2007), PDD-NOS is ascribed as a
diagnosis when an individual does not qualify for the full features of
Autism or one of the other pervasive developmental disorders. However, the
individual is exhibiting marked impairment of social interaction,
communication, and/or stereotyped behavior patterns.
What is Rett’s Syndrome (Rett or RS)?
Rett’s Syndrome was first formally identified in 1966.
This pervasive developmental disorder exclusively affects females. At some
point during early development, typically between six and eighteen months of
age, children experience a noticeable slowing of head growth as well as a
regression of motor skills and the capabilities to engage in self care
skills. Learning, speech, and breathing may also be affected.
What is Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is considered to be a
rare pervasive developmental disorder. Children who are affected by
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder develop normally up until approximately
two years of age. Around two years of age, the child will inexplicably
regress as well as lose skills that were previously acquired. A loss of
skills may be evidence by issues with self-care as well as communication
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome is another pervasive developmental
disorder. Asperger’s Syndrome differs from Autism in that the individual
with Asperger’s “develops typically in childhood without any apparent
cognitive or developmental delays” (Stillman p8). Difficulty may be noted
with the individual’s ability to comprehend social cues, innuendos, and
humor without explanation.
To date, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome seem to be
discussed frequently in the media. Incidentally, Asperger’s syndrome was
not even recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders (DSM) as a separate and distinct condition from Autism until
1994. However, the debate rages on as to whether Asperger’s is truly a
separate condition from Autism. Many respected researchers continue to note
that it is just somewhere on “the spectrum” or a sort of “high-functioning”
Autism. Either way, no one can debate the fact that it is a pervasive
developmental condition that typically lasts throughout one’s life and there
is a real need and a social responsibility to provide individual, family,
school and community-related support.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic
and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.) : Text
revision. Washington, DC: Author.
Speaks Organization- www.AutismSpeaks.org
International Rett Syndrome Association- www.rettsyndrome.org
W. (2007). The Autism answer book: More than 300 of the top questions
parents ask. Illinois: Sourcebooks, Inc.
E. (2005). Ten things every child with Autism wishes you knew.
Texas: Future Horizons, Inc.
article was written in order to provide information regarding Autism
Spectrum Disorders. Do not diagnose an individual based on the presented
information. For further information, you may wish to consult with a family