Although there is no single distinguishing trait or characteristic common to all people with AS, and very few that are exclusive to this condition, there are numerous behaviors and traits that are commonly observed in individuals who have AS. These include:
Similar issues concerning the fragrances of perfumes and toiletries, the tastes of foods, and the textures of clothing are also not uncommon. Asperger Syndrome was first described in 1944 by the Austrian pediatrician Dr. Hans Asperger. During the period following the Second World War, his work did not receive any attention in the rest of the world and was essentially forgotten until the late 1980’s when it was finally re-discovered in Great Britain. It was not recognized in the United States until 1994, when it was incorporated into the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition) of the APA (American Psychiatric Association). Since that time, it has been recognized that the number of individuals with autism spectrum conditions, including AS, is much greater than was previously believed.
In the United States, the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for Asperger Syndrome (299.80) are generally used as the definition of this condition.
The above descriptions of common traits, however, were not given as formal diagnostic criteria, but were written to be more useful for the lay person in recognizing the characteristics of AS in a neighbor, coworker, friend, relative, immediate family member, parent, child, or perhaps even himself or herself.
What Is Autism?
Autism is considered to be the most severe of the autistic spectrum conditions. It is also known as Classic Autism, Early Childhood Autism, and Kanner’s Syndrome. People with Autism have speech problems ranging from speech delay to being completely non-verbal. They may have normal intelligence or be profoundly or moderately challenged mentally. They have a higher than normal incidence of seizure disorders. Intelligent people with Autism are said to be “high-functioning,” and may be difficult to distinguish from people with Asperger Syndrome (in the future, these two groups may share the same classification). Autism covers an extremely broad range of levels of functioning, of abilities and disabilities. They share with all other autistic people the impaired ability to perceive social cues and to place themselves in the minds of others.
In practical terms, this means that people with Autism rarely achieve complete independence as adults. They may never hold a job or have an intimate relationship. Like all autistic spectrum conditions, Autism is present very early in life and people do not outgrow it. However, with the right supports, there is always the ability to improve drastically. People with Autism have many typical behaviors. While all people with Autism do not share all of these traits, these are some traits that are commonly observed:
People with Autism have extremely acute senses. They may be very sensitive to the gentlest touch, the slightest noise, and the mildest scent. They may recoil from the texture of food. And they may be unaware of pain, hunger, and not react to loud noises at all.
Autism was first described by the Austrian-American pediatrician Leo Kanner in 1943. Dr. Kanner called it Early Childhood Autism. Unlike Asperger Syndrome, which only came to the public’s attention in the 1990s, Autism has been recognized but poorly understood since Dr. Kanner’s discovery. It is included in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association) as Autistic Disorder.
What Is PDD-NOS?
PDD-NOS stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. PDD-NOS is a diagnosis listed in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association). PDD-NOS is a diagnosis given when an individual on the autistic spectrum does not qualify for a formal diagnosis of these other conditions. They may not meet the threshold of severity for one of these conditions, or they may not fulfill enough of the formal criteria. They may have some of the behavioral traits of Autism or Asperger Syndrome, but may not meet the minimum requirements for a diagnosis. Sometimes young children may receive a diagnosis of PDD-NOS when the examiner is not sure that they have Autism. As they grow and mature it becomes easier to make a diagnosis and they may lose the PDD-NOS label and get a diagnosis of AS or Autism later on. Adults can have a diagnosis of PDD-NOS when their autistic condition is “atypical.” This means that the presentation of the condition may be unusual and not typical.
PDD-NOS is not so much a specific condition as a statement that the individual with this label is somewhere on the autism spectrum, but we don’t have a better name for it yet.
If you would like to know more about diagnoses that sometimes accompany autism spectrum conditions, such as Williams Syndrome, OCD, Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, ADD, Fragile X Syndrome…etc, go to Autism Network International’s wonderful “Specific Disabilities and Syndromes” page.