Understanding an Autism Diagnosis

April is Autism Awareness Month, so today, we’re going to discuss how to better understand exactly what an Autism diagnosis means. It’s important to understand that Autism may present differently for everyone, with a range of impairments and strengths in a variety of domains. This is why it’s most commonly referred to as a spectrum, and a person who has been diagnosed can fall onto one of many places on that spectrum. 

While most people who fall on the spectrum likely struggle with social skills, communication, understanding emotions in themselves/others, and flexibility, it’s important to realize that treatment and symptoms vary greatly, and are as unique as the individuals who have been diagnosed. Even when two people have received the same diagnosis, that doesn’t mean the same treatment will work for both of them. So as we’re looking into understanding what autism and it’s treatment looks like, it’s incredibly important to remember that it can look vastly different for everyone. In addition, just because someone has a diagnosis of autism, does not mean that their symptoms associated with autism need treatment. In fact, many people with autism present for treatmentwith concerns, such as depression, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Therefore, it is important to remember that individuals with autism may not be searching for assistance with these symptoms but with other concerns.

There are many treatments for symptoms associated with ASD and may include behavior, developmental, educational, social-relational, pharmacological, and psychological. For a comprehensive review of these approaches, we recommend you consult the Center for Disease Control at the address noted below. One of the most common methods of treatment for ASD related symptoms is the use of applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA is provided by a certified Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and/or Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). This therapeutic approach has demonstrated significant scientific support through peer reviewed journals in assisting child and adults with ASD in the incorporation of social skills and the management of problem behaviors. Other commonly used treatments for children may include parent management training (PMT) or parent child interaction therapy (PCIT) as these therapeutic approaches give the parents skills for managing problem behaviors, while also increasing positive interactions with the child and encouraging prosocial behaviors. Finally, in teens or adults with ASD other commonly used therapeutic approaches are social skills training, cognitive behavior therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy as these approaches teach social skills and the identification and regulation of emotions. As noted above, many individuals with ASD may present to therapy without the need or desire for intervention related to their ASD symptoms and this is consistent with the neurodiversity movement. Therefore, it is difficult to describe ASD treatment within a blog post as this is person specific and dependent on the age, family supports, and desired goals of the individual.

Center for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/treatment.html

Prior to autism being diagnosed on a spectrum, there were previously 5 main types of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Here is a little information about each, and how they differ: 

Asperger’s Syndrome

While this term is no longer used by medical professionals, many members of the ASD community still use it for those that have formally been diagnosed with Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder. A person with the diagnosis is likely highly intelligent, with above average verbal skills. However, this does not prevent them from finding communication challenging. People with this diagnosis will likely speak in a monotone voice, and may struggle to express their feelings verbally. They may also struggle with executive functioning, can be extremely inflexible, and may have difficulty interacting with others. In contrast, these persons can also find ways to incorporate their high intelligence and areas of specific interest to live meaningful lives and have positive impacts on those around them.

Childhood Disinegrated Disorder (CDD)

CDD, sometimes referred to as Heller’s syndrome, is accompanied by a delayed onset of problems in the area of motor skills, speech, and social function. It most commonly presents in children ages 3-10, and 90% of cases are in boys. It can be difficult to understand these symptoms for parents, because the symptoms seem to come out of nowhere, even if the child hasn’t show any for the first several years of their lives. It is accompanied with regression in milestones they have previously met, such as vocabulary, motorand social skills. 

Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

PDD-NOS is a mild form of autism, who’s most common symptoms are in the areas of social and language development. People who carry this diagnosis will not experience all of the symptoms of Level 1 ASD, and the symptoms they do show may or may not require the use of formal interventions

Kanner’s Syndrome

Also named infantile autism by Dr. Leo Kanner, doctors describe this form of autism as “classic autism disorder.” Patients with this diagnosis may show lack of emotional attachment to others, an obsession with certain objects, challenges communicating, uncontrollable speech, and learning difficulties.

Rett Syndrom

This is a rare type of autism that results as a neuro developmental disorder and is first recognized in infants. This diagnosis is found most commonly in females, but males can also occasionally receive this diagnosis. Although rare, it can be the most challenging part of the spectrum, as it affects every area of the patient’s life, including physically. The symptoms are more severe, and usually include loss of movement, and sometimes even breathing difficulties. 

Now that more is known, ASD is an umbrella term that covers all of these diagnoses. For a more general description, ASD is a developmental condition that affects how someone sees the world and how they interact with other people. Just like anyone else, autistic people can have good mental health. However, people with autism do often experience mental health difficulties. Treatment most often starts with the patient being evaluated through psychological testing. To learn more about that process, please check out our previous blog post here, which can provide you with more information and understanding of the process. 



It’s important to note that a diagnosis of any of these types of ASD can be managed with the proper education, advocacy, and professional support. If you or your child need more support, we have immediate availability with Dr. Amy Parks or Dr. Jonathan Huffman. You can learn more about each of them here:


Call us at 813-563-1155 or email us today at admin@wellnesspsychservices.com to set up your free phone consult to see if our team is a good fit for your needs. 

205 S. Hoover Blvd. Ste 202
Tampa, FL 33609

(813) 563-1155

Request an Appointment

Got Questions?
Send a Message!

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.