Atypical Autism: The Symptoms (& Can You Self-Diagnose?)

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Autism is a general term that refers to a group of developmental disorders. It’s estimated that 1 in 68 children are born with autism worldwide, making it the most common developmental disability among kids. Despite this, understanding and managing autistic symptoms can be tricky—especially when there isn’t an obvious marker or test you can take right away.,

Atypical Autism is a term that has been used to describe people with autism who do not have the same symptoms as other autistic individuals. The term was created because of the lack of knowledge about autism and its symptoms, which can make it difficult for people to self-diagnose.


Some of the traditional autistic symptoms are present in people with atypical autism, but not enough to fulfill the criteria for childhood autism or autism spectrum disorder.

When signs of atypical autism appear late in life, it may be difficult to diagnose. It is not to be confused with autism that is high-functioning.

Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified used to be the clinical term for atypical autism (PDD-NOS). A subthreshold diagnosis is another term for it.

What Is Atypical Autism and How Does It Affect You?

Atypical autism’s origins, symptoms, diagnosis, and other characteristics are all hotly debated, with various studies and doctors coming to differing findings. Atypical autism is both “poorly characterized” and “poorly understood,” according to the Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders, which was published in 2018.

Atypical autism is one of the subcategories of autism, according to the journal Current Developmental Disorders Reports. It was initially added in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, to address the numerous examples of children who only showed some of the distinguishing characteristics of autism but not all of them. PDD-NOS was one of the five diagnostic categories for autism mentioned in the DSM-IV. From 1994 until 2013, this classification was in operation.

Because of a mix of characteristics, such as late onset, subthreshold symptoms, and unusual symptoms, PDD-NOS was characterized as autistic symptoms that did not match the criteria for recognized autism diagnosis.

A individual required to exhibit severe impairment in the development of verbal and nonverbal abilities, to the point of disrupting social interaction, in order to be labeled with atypical autism. Furthermore, if the criteria for other emotional, behavioral, and developmental illnesses (such as schizophrenia or avoidant personality disorder, to mention two) were not satisfied but characteristic behavior, interests, and activities remained, atypical autism would be diagnosed.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, deleted the category of “pervasive developmental disorders” and the diagnostic of pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified. Repetitive and limited movements, as well as delays in communication and engagement, were combined into two categories in the DSM-5.

Autism at the Subthreshold

Autism at the Subthreshold is the term that refers to a person who has some features of autism, but not all of them. It is also used to describe a person’s condition when the symptoms of their autism are comparatively mild. An example might be a person who has significant social impairments but shows none of the repetitive behaviors, such as rocking back and forth or flapping their hands.

This implies that persons with atypical autism have a wide range of talents and limitations, making it difficult to diagnose the illness.

The Signs and Symptoms of Atypical Autism

Atypical autism has traits that are comparable to those linked with a regular diagnosis of autistic disorder, although they are milder. They are as follows:

  • Unusual or inappropriate social conduct.
  • Fine or large motor skills, cognitive abilities, or visual or spatial perception develop irregularly.
  • Speech or language understanding development is slow.
  • Nonverbal and verbal communication losses.
  • Changes in sensory sensitivity to taste, sight, sound, smell, and touch.
  • When you’re stressed, you may engage in repetitive or ritualistic actions.

Even though atypical autism has lesser symptoms, persons with this version of the disease face significant challenges. Researchers writing in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry compared people with atypical autism to those who had autism disorder and Asperger syndrome. They claimed that half of the children with atypical autism exhibited so little of the repetitive behaviors associated with autism that they failed to fulfill the disability’s criteria. Another percent of the youngsters showed only minor cognitive developmental deficits or linguistic problems. The remaining quarter had a late onset of autism or were too young to meet the diagnostic criteria for autism.

Even if the atypical autism diagnosis confirms symptoms that are relatively mild, clinicians would advise using standard treatments that are effective across the autism spectrum, such as speech, occupational, and physical therapy; behavior and developmental therapy; and social skills classes for older children.

Atypical Autism Diagnosis

How can you tell if you have atypical autism? Parents and caregivers should be on the lookout for early signs of social and communication difficulties, which may occur as early as infancy. This may manifest itself in a variety of ways, including problems utilizing and understanding linguistic ideas, difficulties relating with other children, strange behaviors when playing with toys, issues to adjust to changes in routine and surroundings, and stereotyped repetitive bodily gestures.

Despite its resemblance to conventional autistic symptoms, atypical autism may be difficult to diagnose since its symptoms are often milder or less disruptive than those of autism disorder. Early intervention may guide parents toward treatment to address the issues and loss of certain abilities if autism is suspected (or if other evidence, such as behavioral history, communication patterns, and neuropsychological functioning, is present). As part of a normal health visit, developmental testing might be performed.

Consequences for Adulthood

People who have been diagnosed with atypical autism are likely to have restrictions comparable to those who have been diagnosed with classic autism spectrum disorder.

Even those with ordinary cognitive capabilities and linguistic abilities will face maturity issues, according to researchers in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Their grasp of social context and emotional responses will be limited even if they have an unusual type of autism.

When compared to people with more severe forms of autism, persons with atypical autism have a similar likelihood of getting married or holding down a job.

This is where early intervention can assist, although it’s unclear how much behavior modification treatment in childhood can enhance people’s lives later in life.

Neither usual language nor typical cognitive functioning, according to the study’s principal investigator, can compensate for “the repercussions of having an autism spectrum disease,” particularly when the illness impairs how a person communicates and interacts in social circumstances.

Even while those with atypical autism are “usually better functioning,” they have no grownup benefits over those with more severe types of the disorder, according to a behavioral science expert who was not part in the research.

Atypical autism has a reputation for being a “less difficult” version of the disorder to live with, however this is not the case. Even while certain symptoms are less than those associated with typical autism spectrum condition, the symptoms that are present may be just as disruptive, especially in childhood and later in life.

Atypical autism, like other kinds of autism spectrum condition, needs the same amount of intervention, care, and continuous treatment. The treatment’s severity will be determined by the details of each case.


The “atypical autism traits” are the symptoms of autism. The traits can be self-diagnosed, but it is recommended to consult a professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does atypical mean autism?

A: Atypical means that something is not usual in a particular way, or does not follow the rules. Example being an atypical car

What are 5 of the main symptoms of autism disorders?

A: The main symptoms that are seen in autistic disorders can be categorized into differing degrees of severity. Some may have a mild form without any impairment, while others with more severe cases may need constant supervision and support from caregivers to avoid possible danger or self-harm.

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