There is one thing many of us are trying to understand, the differences between Autism and Asperger’s. We understand that deciphering between the two can be difficult as there are some very similar traits, but there are also some very different traits as well. Understanding is a big part of being able to help our children in their daily lives, and we want to help you.
Asperger’s Disorder or syndrome is a neurological disorder that, like others on the spectrum, is marked by difficulties in communication and social interaction. Asperger’s is applied to identify the mildest and highest functioning end of the Autism spectrum. It is a high functioning form of Autism. Therefore, it is at the mild spectrum of Autism. There is no prescribed regimen of treatment; however adults may live productive, independent lives.
What distinguishes Asperger’s from Autism are the less severe symptoms and the absence of language delays. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may be only mildly affected and frequently have good language and cognitive skills. To the untrained observer, a child with Asperger’s Disorder may just seem like a normal child behaving differently.
Children with autism are frequently seen as aloof and uninterested in others. This is not the case with Asperger’s Disorder. Individuals with Asperger’s Disorder usually want to fit in and have interaction with others; they simply don’t know how to do it. They may be socially awkward, not understand conventional social rules, or show a lack of empathy. They may have limited eye contact, seem unengaged in a conversation, and not understand the use of gestures.
Uta Frith, a professor at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience of University College London and editor ofAutism and Asperger Syndrome, describes individuals with Asperger’s Disorder as “having a dash of Autism.”
One of the major differences between Asperger’s and autism is that, by definition, there is no speech delay in Asperger’s. In fact, children with Asperger’s frequently have good language skills; they simply use language in different ways. Speech patterns may be unusual, lack inflection or have a rhythmic nature, or may be formal, but too loud or high-pitched. Children with Asperger’s may not understand the subtleties of language, such as irony and humor, or they may not understand the give-and-take nature of a conversation.
While motor difficulties are not a specific criterion for Asperger’s, children with Asperger’s frequently have motor skill delays and may appear clumsy or awkward.
A diagnosis of high-functioning autism and one of Asperger’s can be made in the same individual at different stages of development. Occasionally a child has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism in early childhood and this diagnosis has been changed to Asperger’s when they started school. Some diagnosticians are clearly of the view that Asperger’s cannot be diagnosed before a child starts school. However this is largely because areas such as social skills deficits may not become apparent until a child spends a lot of time in social settings.