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Autism Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome and the Differences Between Them

Updated on April 1, 2020
Margaret Pan profile image

Having learned what and how complicated Autism is at a very young age, Margaret has been researching this disorder for years.

Autism is one of the most challenging disorders and a very tricky one due to the fact that each individual is affected differently, which means that there are different challenges and various ways to cope with it. This disorder has been a sensitive issue for me since I first met a person diagnosed with autism during my school years. I've been doing a lot of research on Autism in order to both get an in-depth understanding of it and provide other people with valuable information about it. This article sheds some light on the differences between Autism and Asperger's -the latter being a milder form of the former. These differences include:

-the struggle with language and speech
-the preference of solitude over company
-the IQ level
-the time of diagnosis
-the severity of symptoms

What Is Autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder that can cause significant communication, social, behavioral and speech challenges. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, its symptoms usually appear in the first two years of the child's life. The term "spectrum disorder" refers to the fact that there is a wide variety in regards to the type and severity of symptoms that individuals experience. Each year approximately 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with ASD, while boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. The ways in which autistic people learn, think and behave can range from highly skilled to significantly challenged. Some of them may require continuous support and therapy in their everyday lives whereas others may need less while managing to lead entirely independent lives. Autism doesn't have a single cause but rather develops due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

What Is Asperger's Syndrome?

Asperger syndrome, also known as Asperger's, is also a developmental disorder that consists of significant difficulties in regards to social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Its exact cause remains unknown, with genetics and environmental factors playing a significant role in its development. Symptoms of this syndrome usually appear during a child's first two years of life and last for a lifetime.

Why Is Asperger's Syndrome Considered a Milder Form of Autism?

Although in the past many professionals believed that Asperger's was a separate disorder, it is know considered a milder form of autism. That's due to the fact that these two disorders share a lot of common symptoms. In fact, when referring to this syndrome, professionals also use the term "high-functioning autism". Just like Autism, there is no particular treatment for Asperger's. Nonetheless, interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy and physical or speech therapy can significantly improve an affected individual's life.

Are You Familiar With Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger's Syndrome?

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The Autism Awareness Ribbon
The Autism Awareness Ribbon | Source

The puzzle ribbon was adopted in 1999 as the universal sign of autism awareness and reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum disorder. The different colors and shapes of the puzzle represent the diversity of the people living with the condition, while the brightness of the ribbon signals hope.

What Is the Difference Between Autism Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome?

Since Asperger's syndrome is no longer considered to be a separate disorder but is now tested and classified under the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, differentiating between the two of them can be difficult and tricky. However, a great number of experts claim that there are some symptoms that set them apart, which are listed below.

Language and Speech Difficulties

Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder often struggle with language development. They might be slower to develop language, have no language at all, or have significant problems with understanding or using spoken language. Moreover, they tend to communicate mostly in order to ask for something and not to start a conversation. On the other hand, when it comes to children with Asperger's, there is rarely speech delay and they usually have great language and conversation skills.

Solitude vs Company

People with autism can frequently viewed as uninterested in others, preferring solitude over other people's company. However, individuals with Asperger’s syndrome often wish to interact with others, and want to fit in - they just don’t know how to do so. They may be socially awkward and not understand conventional social rules or the use of gestures or sarcasm. Nevertheless, they are interested in forming friendships and relationships.

IQ Level

Although many autistic individuals may have a below-average or average IQ, those with Asperger’s usually have higher than average intelligence and are quite gifted. Many of them have exceptional academic performance and excel in fields such as math or arts. However, some of them can experience behavioral problems at school.

Time of Diagnosis

Since individuals with Asperger's show no speech delay and have high intelligence it is difficult for professionals to detect signs of the syndrome and they are often not diagnosed until much later in life, sometimes not even until adulthood. On the contrary, children with autism are usually diagnosed between the ages of two and four.

Severity of Symptoms

Asperger's being considered " high - functioning autism", people diagnosed with it generally experience less severe symptoms than those with autism. Due to that, they are often able to live independently whereas many kids with autism may need specialized support and education.


What Can I Do If I Suspect My Child Is Affected by ASD or Asperger's?

If you suspect that there is something wrong with your child's behavior and answered yes to the majority of the above questions, it would be wise to visit a medical expert who will be able to make a diagnosis based on your child's behavior and determine whether it is affected by one of these two syndromes. And remember: even if that's the case, it is important that you remain calm and know that with the right treatment, your child will be able to have a normal and fulfilling life.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Margaret Pan


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