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What are the recognized degrees of autism?

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Version five of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders categorizes all types of autism under the autism spectrum disorder category, and the three main types of autism are autistic disorder, Asperger's syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder, explains WebMD. The category also includes two autism-like disorders: Rhett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.

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Autistic disorder covers what people typically think of when they hear the term autism, according to WebMD. It deals with problems with imaginative play, social interaction and communication. These problems occur in kids younger than three. Children with Asperger's syndrome don't have problems with language and may even score above average on tests. However, they exhibit trouble with social skills and tend to have more limited interests than other children. Pervasive developmental disorder is a catch-all category of autism spectrum disorder, and it covers children who exhibit some behaviors typical of autistic children but who don't fit in another category.

Rhett syndrome is listed under the autism spectrum disorder category, reports WebMD. It affects girls more frequently than boys, and children who have are typically have severe cognitive impairment. These children often have repetitive hand movements and struggle with purposeful hand movement. Childhood disintegrative disorder is also classified as an autism spectrum disorder, and children with it struggle with communication and social skills after at least two years of normal development. However, the disorder is extremely rare and controversial among experts.

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