Healthy Living

What is Atypical Autism?

PDD-NOS presents differently in every individual. And every individual can face completely different challenges and issues.

What is Atypical Autism?

While autism appears differently in each person, some people show red flags of this mysterious disorder. If someone experiences difficulties in a few core areas or have some specific symptoms of autism, the individual may have atypical autism. Officially, atypical autism is called Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). Atypical autism tends to become noticeable after age of 3 and this type of disorder may not receive an official diagnosis for years.

Signs and Symptoms of Atypical Autism

If you suspect you child may have autism, but doesn’t have common symptoms of autism, you should check the signs and symptoms of PDD-NOS. Typically after age of 3, some problems appear in one or two of the three core areas that are required for autism diagnosis: language and communication skills, social skills and repetitive behavioral patterns.

Cases of atypical autism can be mild or severe and the symptoms in every individual can be different. Characteristics of PDD-NOS can differ widely because each case is different. But the signs and symptoms can include the following:

  • Difficulty understanding and using non-verbal gestures such as posture, facial expressions, nodding and eye contact
  • Does not understand emotions of others
  • None or limited imaginative play
  • Lack of interest in making friends
  • Repetitive body movements or behavior patterns such as hand flapping, spinning in circles, opening and closing doors repeatedly, etc.
  • Poorly developed language and speech comprehension skills
  • Difficulties in starting or carrying conversations
  • Prefers to follow a specific routine and difficulty with any changes in routine
  • Unusual attachments to objects or part of toys
  • Limited or delayed speech
  • Shows unusual sensitivity to certain sounds, smells, tastes, touch or colors.

Diagnosis of Atypical Autism

Researches suggest that individual with atypical autism falls into one of three very different categories:

  1. Category 1 (a high-functioning group): whose symptoms largely match with the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome, but who experiences speech delay and mild cognitive issues. (The characteristics of Asperger's syndrome does not include language development issues or cognitive disability)
  2. Category 2: whose symptoms more similar to the symptoms of Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but do not exactly match all its diagnostic criteria.
  3. Category 3 (The biggest group): whose diagnostic criteria meet all the diagnostic signs and symptoms of ASD, but has fewer stereotypical and repetitive behaviors than people with an Autism diagnosis.

How to Help Someone With Atypical Autism

If you suspect your child has some or many symptoms of atypical autism, consult your doctor immediately. Just like any type of autism, early intervention can play a vital role in making huge difference in the life of the individual with autism. Early intervention is essential to make huge improvements in both mild and severe functioning issues. Atypical autism or PDD-NOS may not fit exactly with the conditions of other autistic spectrum disorders, but the classic treatments used for autism will be helpful for atypical autism too. Getting treatment at the right time can help your child to deal with the challenges and lead a better adult life.

Treatment for Atypical Autism

As previously mentioned, early diagnosis and intervention will help overcome various challenges - including success in primary functioning, acquiring independence and adulthood. However, therapy can begin at any stage of autism. Here's list of some common therapies and services:

  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
  • Discrete trial instruction (part of ABA)
  • Social Skills Classes
  • Visual and environmental supports  or Vision therapy

As said before, PDD-NOS presents differently in every individual. And every individual can face completely different challenges and issues. So, the interventions and treatments of atypical autism must be completely individualized based on an accurate judgment by a highly qualified autism specialist. The assessment should be based on some factors like symptoms, history of the individual’s behavior, communication skills, social functioning and neuropsychological skills. Parents should go for an Early Intervention Program (EIP) for young child with atypical autism and an Individual Education Program (IEP) for a child of 5 years at least.