There are five PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) disorders that have been labeled, autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (the latter two less common). There is a a 5th PDD disorder labeled PDD-NOS, that is pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, that does not meet the criteria for the other commonly diagnosed disorders.

Autism is a neurological condition characterized by impairments in social, communicative and behavioral development. Similar to ADHD, it is three times as common with boys than girls. The problem is international in scope and the level of severity varies. In New Jersey, approximately one out of 109 meets the criteria for autism.

In 1943 Dr. Leo Kanner of the Johns Hopkins Hospital studied a group of 11 children and introduced the label of early infantile autism. A German scientist, about the same time, labeled a milder form of the disorder which became known as Asperger syndrome. These are the two most common of the disorders known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), or as autism spectrum disorders.

It may take discernment on the part of parents and treatment teams, to determine whether a child has ADHD, autism, or some other disorder.

Rett syndrome occurs almost exclusively in females, in one out of 10,000 to 15,000 children, and can usually be noticed sometime between 6 and 18 months, with autism-like symptoms. The child may not respond to her parents, mental and social development regresses, and she may withdraw from social contact. Some symptoms of Rett Syndrome are, difficulty in verbal communication, difficulty controlling the feet, wringing the hands.

Autism Experience of Hope

The (former) girlfriend of actor Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, released the book "Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism," about her son, Evan, and his progress in coming out of autism, as well as about Carey's attentiveness to her son and the role that she felt this had in his partial recovery. Evan was 5-years-old in November, 2007 as this story developed. Evan's mother sought out intensive therapy for her son's treatment, and Evan recovered to the point that he no longer qualified for a diagnosis of autism.

Stories such as this give a ray of hope to parents whose children are autistic, to persist in providing therapy and making whatever possible adjustments they can to facilitate improvement. Every small step forward results in progress towards partial recovery. For some children, full recovery might not be possible, for others, there might be hope for a better life as a result of therapy and parental self-help measures in behalf of the child.

Benefits of Medication are Negligible for Autism

It is generally felt, that while medication is used sometimes for children who have secondary symptoms such as anger, for autism itself, the benefits of medication are generally considered to be negligible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states accurately, "No medication can cure ASDs or treat the core symptoms that make up the disorder "that is, communication, social, and repetitive or unusual behaviors."

Therapy for Autism

Behavioral therapy has been effective for some children. There are specialized schools and schools within the public school system for autistic children. Such classes consist of few students with a high ratio of teachers and students.

Some authoritative sources states that approximately one-third of those who receive intensive therapy, especially from preschool years, can achieve marked improvement, another one-third can be helped somewhat and the other third might not make much progress at all. Children who are affected the most severe symptoms of autism spectrum disorders are those who will be least likely to achieve marked improvement, although there are always exceptions.

If therapy is accompanied by attention to positive lifestyle changes at home, this can help to improve the ratios of children who are helped to recover from autism and similar disorders.

Author's Bio: 

The AYCNP is a not-for-profit corporation in Newark, NJ which offers educational resources on non-pharmaceutical solutions in mental health.

For more information on autism, symptoms, the issue of vaccines as a cause of autism, as well as the possible effects of television, media, cartoons for children, on autism, and what parents can do, as well as many helpful references, please visit our website’s autism in children pages.

Read more ideas in mental health in the ADHD book: Overcoming ADHD Without Medication: A Parent and Educator's Guidebook. The principles discussed in this book have broader application in general mental health for children and for helping children with autism.