Autism spectrum disorders are three, closely-related developmental disabilities of neurobiological origin. While each specific diagnosis has certain charictaristics and features, they all describe a disability with a "triad" of impairments (see "What is ASD?"). No two individuals with ASD are the same; each person is unique, with an individual set of strengths and weaknesses. Generally, persons with Asperger's Syndrome are "higher functioning" than those with Autistic Disorder, although this is not always the case and, in some cases, is subjective to the individual or the perceiver. Persons with PDD-NOS may fall pretty much anywhere on the spectrum, based on functual abilities.
A very generalized example of each specific ASD is:
Asperger's Syndrome (AS) · Poor social skills and interaction · Lack of insight · Narrow range of interests · Behavioral inflexibility · IQ > 70 (not always able to obtain accurate test results) · No speech delay · Poor motor coordination / clumsy
PDD - NOS · Generally less severe than A.D.; may be less or more severe than A.S. · Components from all 3 portions of the triad · Does not meet specific criteria for diagnosis of A.D. or A.S.
Autistic Disorder (AD) · Social and empathy deficits · Language deficits · Cognitively inflexible · Speech delays / deficits
It should be noted that EMS providers do not need to get caught up in comparing and contrasting the specific ASD diagnosis. What is important is that the provider can recognize the disability and is familiar with the various terms to describe ASDs:
-Autistic Disorder, Autism, Classic Autism -High-Functioning Autism, HFA (a form of Autistic Disorder) -Pervasive Developmental Disability (or Delay), PDD, Pervasive Developmental Disability (or Delay)-Not Otherwise Specified, PDD-NOS -Atypical Autism (generally refers to PDD-NOS) -Asperger’s Syndrome (or Disorder), AS -Autistic -Autistic Tendencies, Autistic-Like Behaviors do not indicate a diagnosis of an ASD, but it may be beneficial to treat these individuals as if they are on the spectrum.
Providers hearing these terms used to describe their patient should consider using assessment and treatment strategies appropriate for ASD, as needed.