Sometimes referred to as Kanner’s Syndrome, severe autism is the classic type of autism that books and films often portray to great dramatic effect. You may also hear it called infantile autism, childhood autism, or simply autism disorder.
Individuals with the classic type of autism may have more, and are more heavily affected by, symptoms within the areas of communication, social development, and activities and interests or they may have only a few obvious ones. Some of the symptoms can be so debilitating — like a lack of functional communication — and the sensory issues so severe that the afflicted can barely stand to remain in their own skin. Other symptoms may be mild; a person may have good verbal communication skills but is unable to understand pragmatics, or the meaning “between the words”.
People who are less-severely impaired by their autism are said to have high functioning autism (HFA) or Asperger Syndrome (see the section “Asperger Syndrome” for more on, well, Asperger Syndrome). Language develops late or not at all in people with Kanner’s Syndrome, which is the main distinction between classic autism and Asperger’s, as of this writing. Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University who lectures and writes frequently on autism, and Kathy Grant, a political science graduate and autism advocate who has chronicled her sensory sensitivities, are some famous examples of high-functioning people with classic autism.