How Does Asperger’s Syndrome differ from Autism?

What distinguishes Asperger’s syndrome from autism is the severity of the symptoms and the absence of language delays. Children with Asperger’s syndrome may be only mildly affected and frequently have good language and cognitive skills. To the untrained observer, a child with Asperger’s syndrome 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 syndrome. Individuals with Asperger’s syndrome 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 may show a lack of empathy. They may have limited eye contact, seem to be unengaged in a conversation, and not understand the use of gestures. However, the fact that some persons with Asperger’s may make eye contact does not rule out the diagnosis for them. Therefore, a child who can make eye contact could still have Asperger’s syndrome.

Interests in a particular subject may border on the obsessive. Children with Asperger’s syndrome frequently like to collect categories of things, such as rocks or bottle caps. They may be proficient in knowing categories of information, such as baseball statistics or Latin names of flowers.While they may have good rote memory skills, they may have difficulty with abstract concepts.

One of the major differences between Asperger’s syndrome and autism is that, by definition, there is no speech delay in Asperger’s. In fact, children with Asperger’s syndrome frequently have a large vocabulary and can talk a lot; they simply use language in different ways. Speech patterns may be unusual, lack inflection, or have a rhythmic nature or they may be formal, but too loud, too quiet, or high pitched. Sometimes their speech can be informal when it needs to be formal, or vice versa. They also may not be able to communicate the message that is most important, especially when they are stressed or upset.

Children with Asperger’s syndrome 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. Another distinction between Asperger’s syndrome and autism concerns cognitive ability. While some individuals with autism experience cognitive delay, by definition a person with Asperger’s syndrome cannot possess a “clinically significant” cognitive delay and most possess an average to above average intelligence. While motor difficulties are not a specific criteria for Asperger’s, children with Asperger’s syndrome frequently have motor skill delays and may appear clumsy or awkward.

Source: Autism Society of America 2007