Autism Spectrum Disorder (also known as ASD or simply, Autism) is a neurological disorder (neurological meaning that it effects the brain) and by that, it simply means that the brain is wired in a different way to everyone else’s. However, the way the wires cross is as unique to the individual as everything else. In other words, no two Autistic people are the same: just because there’s a label, doesn’t mean it’s always in the same place.
Autism affects many people throughout the world, regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic status. It is estimated that for every 1000 Australians, at least ten of them have some form of Autism, be it ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, or PDD-NOS.
What’s the difference? Well, first you have to know what each one is and how it differs from the others.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are the most well-known of the four types, given that they are the two most commonly diagnosed (and televised). There is not much difference between the two, and they both can vary in severity from person to person. But the main difference is in the name, or rather the letter H. The ‘H’ in ADHD stands for ‘Hyperactivity’ and like everything else, the level of hyperactivity varies from person to person. Some feel the need to be in constant movement, be it bouncing a knee, pacing the room or spinning in place, others may just be pros at finger percussion. It all depends on the individual.
The other letters left over stand for Attention and Deficit, respectfully, with the last standing for Disorder. The Attention Deficit part of the equation, simply means that the person has trouble staying focussed on a single subject, unless it is one that interests them. This can be seen as problematic in the workplace, as people with ADD and ADHD often have trouble completing a task or set of tasks by a certain deadline. There can be many reasons for this, but these issues mostly stem from the fact that people with ADD and ADHD often get side-tracked by things around them or (in cases of there being more than one task to complete) tend to be selective about which tasks they want to complete, not necessarily the ones that they need to.
People with ADD and ADHD also tend to struggle with social interactions and situations, and so avoid social interaction whenever and wherever they can. This presents another issue for those trying to get into the workforce, as many jobs necessitate interaction with either fellow employees, members of the public, or both.
Asperger’s Syndrome, more often known as simply Asperger’s, is different from ADD and ADHD primarily because while with ADD and ADHD, people can be either high-functioning or low-functioning, people with Asperger’s are nearly always highly intelligent and will go above and beyond to learn everything they possibly can about a topic they enjoy. However, topics that do not interest them—as with ADD and ADHD—tend to fall by the wayside and are otherwise ignored. This can become an issue in the workforce, as they tend to over-focus on the single task while other, possibly more important tasks, are ignored. For example, if a person loves drawing and is set tasks that do not include drawing in any form, they can often get side-tracked drawing, and absolutely must finish the drawing before they can think about the tasks they were set in the first place.
People with Asperger’s tend to seek out social interaction, but struggle with taking part in conversations and recognising social ques such as tone of voice, facial expression and body language.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) also known as Atypical Autism (which is not as much of a mouthful) is a diagnosis given to children or adults who do not fit any one ‘Type’ of Autism. As mentioned in a Bustle Article, PDD-NOS is literally defined as “not fitting into the other categories properly”. The symptoms are recognisably Autism, but do not fit into any of the individual categories. Think of it like this: There are three holes. ADD is a diamond shape, ADHD is a triangle, and Asperger’s is a circle. PDD-NOS is the square shaped peg without a hole to fit through, and so goes into a box all of its own.
It is listed as one of the ‘milder’ forms of Autism, and people diagnosed with PDD-NOS are usually on the high-functioning end of the scale.