Autism Spectrum Disorders:
Special Care in Dentistry
John Morgan, DDS
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, 2008
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), are comprised of the following five neurobiological conditions:
Current prevalence rates suggest that ASDs affect between 1 in 166 and 1 in 500 children. The first three conditions - Autistic Disorder (also referred to as “classic autism”), Asperger’s Syndrome, and PDD:NOS (a diagnosis often given in a child’s second year of life, when a more specific diagnosis on the spectrum is not yet possible) account for most cases of ASDs. These three conditions share many of the same symptoms, but they differ in terms of the time and speed of onset, severity and other specific characteristics. Two other conditions - Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder – are relatively rare. Rett Syndrome affects 1 in 10,000 to 15,000 individuals, and occurs almost exclusively in females. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder occurs in approximately 1 in 50,000 individuals, and is almost exclusively found in males.
Common symptoms of Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Sydrome and PDD:NOS, appear across five behavioral categories. They are:
Children with ASD are typically diagnosed before the age of three. As suggested by the characteristics above, ASD profoundly affects the child’s ability to communicate, develop language, form social relationships and respond appropriately to the environment. Systematic behavioral intervention, begun as early as possible, is considered crucial for teaching new skills and managing problematic behaviors.
For more information on the prevalence, causes and
characteristics of ASD, click here to go to the
for Disease Control and
Prevention’s web site on “Autism:”