What is the difference between autism and Asperger syndrome?
Some literature suggests that high functioning autism (autism without an intellectual disability) and Asperger syndrome are the same disorder; and fall into the category of Asperger syndrome. Other professionals argue that Asperger syndrome is not a separate diagnostic category at all, and that all people on the autistic spectrum, regardless of language or cognitive ability, have autism. However, professional and practical experience suggest that neither of these arguments may be the case. The Autism Association of South Australia, in line with international diagnostic criteria, recognises that high functioning autism and Asperger syndrome, although both part of the autistic spectrum, present slightly differently. Individuals with Asperger syndrome do not exhibit a clinically significant delay in language or in cognitive development. Either or both of these delays can be seen in people with autism.
Despite the diagnostic requirement for normal development of language, individuals with Asperger syndrome do present with disordered language, having difficulties in the areas of the content of their language and its social use. The distinctly formal, pedantic and precise way of speaking that is typically seen in people with Asperger syndrome is not usually seen in individuals with autism, even in individuals who may have the same cognitive abilities.
People with Asperger syndrome also seem more aware of and interested in the social world than people with autism. However, this does not change the fact that interaction with others does not ‘come naturally’ for people with Asperger syndrome. They must be explicitly taught their social skills and the ‘rules’ of society, and often learn them best by rote.
Research and clinical observation have demonstrated that for people with autism there is usually a scattered cognitive profile with better overall abilities in the performance (non-verbal) range of tasks. People with Asperger syndrome also have a scattered cognitive profile but usually have higher overall scores on verbal tasks. It is more likely, too, to find that people with Asperger syndrome have poor co-ordination and fine motor difficulties.
Please click here to download the About Autism pdf brochure.
Please click here to download the About Asperger syndrome pdf brochure.