What Are the 5 Types of Autism?

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects individuals in various ways and degrees. It is a spectrum disorder, which means that two people with autism can have different symptoms and behaviors.

What is Autism?

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects individuals in various ways and degrees. It is a spectrum disorder, which means that two people with autism can have different symptoms and behaviors. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the technical term for autism, and it includes several types of autism. In this article, we explore the different types of autism and their characteristics.

5 Types of Autism

1. Classic Autism

Classic autism is also called autistic disorder or Kanner’s autism. It is the most severe form of autism, and it is typically diagnosed in children before the age of three. Classic autism affects a person's social, verbal, and nonverbal communication skills. People with classic autism may have difficulty making eye contact, engaging in conversation, and understanding emotions.

2. Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s Syndrome is a milder form of autism. People with Asperger’s Syndrome have average to above-average intelligence and language development. However, they have difficulties with social communication and interaction. They may have trouble making friends and understanding social cues, such as facial expressions and body language. People with Asperger’s Syndrome may have intense interests in specific topics and engage in repetitive behaviors.

3. Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

PDD-NOS is a diagnosis given to individuals who have some symptoms of autism but do not meet the criteria for classic autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. It is also known as atypical autism. People with PDD-NOS may have difficulty with social interaction, communication, and behavior. They may have delayed language development, repetitive behaviors, and sensory issues.

4. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is a rare form of autism that affects children between the ages of two and four. Children with this disorder develop typically until about the age of two and then experience a significant loss of skills. They may lose language, social, and self-help skills. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is often referred to as “regressive autism.”

5. Rett Syndrome

Rett Syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects girls almost exclusively. It is a rare form of autism that affects approximately one in every 10,000 to 15,000 girls. Girls with Rett Syndrome develop typically until about six months of age and then experience a regression in skills. They may lose their ability to speak, walk, and use their hands. They may also have seizures and breathing difficulties.

Causes of Autism

The exact causes of autism are still unknown, but research suggests that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in its development.

Studies have shown that certain genes increase the risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, not all individuals with these genes develop ASD, indicating that other factors are involved.

Environmental factors such as prenatal exposure to toxins or infections during pregnancy have also been linked to an increased risk for ASD. Other potential environmental factors include complications during birth or exposure to high levels of air pollution.

It is important to note that vaccines do not cause autism. Multiple studies have found no link between vaccines and ASD. The scientific consensus is that vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious illnesses.

While the causes of autism are still being studied, early diagnosis and intervention can improve outcomes for individuals with ASD.

How to Get a Professional Diagnosis for Autism

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have autism, it is important to seek a professional diagnosis. A diagnosis can help individuals receive appropriate support and resources.

The first step in getting a professional diagnosis for autism is to speak with your primary care physician or pediatrician. They can refer you to a specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, or psychiatrist.

The diagnostic process typically involves several assessments and evaluations. These may include:

  • Developmental screening
  • Comprehensive diagnostic evaluation
  • Medical tests to rule out other conditions

It is important to choose an experienced professional who specializes in diagnosing autism. The specialist will evaluate the individual's behavior, communication, and social skills. They may also observe the individual in different settings and interview parents, caregivers, and teachers.

After the evaluations are complete, the specialist will provide a diagnosis based on the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

It is important to remember that receiving an autism diagnosis does not define an individual. Rather, it provides insight into their strengths and challenges and helps them receive appropriate support and resources.

Early Signs of Autism in Infants and Toddlers

Autism is usually diagnosed between the ages of two and four, but signs of autism can be observed in infants and toddlers as young as six months old. Early intervention is crucial in improving outcomes for individuals with ASD, so it's important to recognize the early signs of autism.

Some early signs of autism in infants and toddlers include:

1. Lack of Eye Contact

Infants typically make eye contact with their caregivers, but babies with autism may avoid eye contact altogether.

2. Delayed Speech Development

Most babies start babbling around six months old, but babies with autism may not start vocalizing until much later or not at all.

3. Repetitive Behaviors

Repetitive behaviors such as rocking back and forth or flapping hands are common in children with autism. These behaviors may be more noticeable in toddlers.

4. Lack of Interest in Play

Babies and toddlers usually enjoy playing games like peek-a-boo or other interactive games, but children with autism may not show interest or engage in these activities.

If you notice any of these signs in your child, it's important to talk to your pediatrician about getting an evaluation for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Early diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve outcomes for individuals with ASD.

Treatment Options for Individuals with Autism

There is no cure for autism, but early diagnosis and intervention can improve outcomes for individuals with ASD. Treatment options may include therapy and medication.


Therapy is often the primary treatment for individuals with autism. There are several types of therapy that can help individuals with ASD develop social, communication, and behavioral skills.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): ABA is a type of therapy that focuses on reinforcing positive behaviors and reducing negative behaviors. It is often used to teach new skills and reduce problem behaviors.

Speech Therapy: Speech therapy can help individuals with ASD develop language skills, improve communication, and reduce problem behaviors related to communication difficulties.

Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy can help individuals with ASD develop fine motor skills and improve sensory processing issues.


Medication may be prescribed to treat specific symptoms of autism, such as anxiety or hyperactivity. Some commonly prescribed medications for individuals with ASD include:

Antipsychotics: Antipsychotic medications may be prescribed to treat aggression, irritability, or other behavioral problems in individuals with autism.

Stimulants: Stimulant medications such as Ritalin or Adderall may be prescribed to treat hyperactivity or attention problems in individuals with ASD.

It's important to note that medication should not be the only treatment for individuals with autism. Therapy should also be included in the treatment plan to address the root causes of symptoms and help individuals develop new skills.

Different Strategies for Managing Challenging Behaviors in Individuals with Autism

Challenging behaviors such as aggression, self-injury, and tantrums are common in individuals with autism. These behaviors can be difficult to manage and can interfere with daily activities and social interactions. However, there are several strategies that can help manage these challenging behaviors.

1. Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement involves rewarding positive behavior to encourage its repetition. This strategy is often used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. For example, if a child with autism engages in appropriate social behavior during a playdate, they may receive praise or a small reward like stickers or a favorite toy.

2. Visual Supports

Visual supports such as picture schedules or visual cues can help individuals with autism understand expectations and routines. These supports can reduce anxiety and confusion and promote independence. For example, a visual schedule can outline the steps of a morning routine like brushing teeth, getting dressed, and eating breakfast.

3. Sensory Integration Therapy

Sensory integration therapy involves activities that provide sensory input to individuals with sensory processing issues. This therapy can help reduce sensory overload and improve self-regulation skills. Activities may include playing with textured materials like sand or water or using weighted blankets.

4. Social Stories

Social stories are short narratives that describe social situations or expectations in detail. They can help individuals with autism understand social cues and expectations and prepare them for new experiences or changes in routine.

5. Medication

In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage challenging behaviors in individuals with autism when other strategies have not been effective. However, medication should always be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

It's important to note that every individual with autism is unique, so it's important to develop an individualized plan for managing challenging behaviors based on their specific needs and strengths. With the right strategies and support, individuals with autism can learn to manage their behavior and achieve their full potential.


Autism is a complex disorder that affects individuals differently. Understanding the different types of autism can help parents, caregivers, and educators provide appropriate support and interventions. If you suspect that your child has autism, it is essential to seek a professional diagnosis. Early diagnosis and intervention can make a significant difference in a child's development and quality of life.