Comparing Autism and
Asperger Syndrome

The Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome

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Autism and Asperger Syndrome: Asperger Syndrome is characterized by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) as a child with behavior and social skills development problems. AACAP compares autism and Asperger Syndrome as:

  • A child with Asperger Syndrome typically functions at a higher level than a child with autism.
  • It is common for a child with Asperger Syndrome to have normal to above normal intelligence.
  • Although children with Asperger Syndrome may have unusual speech patterns, there is usually no delay in language development.
  • Children with Asperger Syndrome may have trouble interacting with children their age. They are often loners and may show behavior that some people may consider eccentric.
  • Many children with Asperger Syndrome have problems with coordination.
According to AACAP (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) there may be a tendency for Asperger Syndrome to run in families, suggesting a genetic link. However, there is no known cause for Asperger Syndrome. AACAP states children with the disorder are at risk for psychiatric problems such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Treatment for Asperger Syndrome consists of psychotherapy, special education, behavior therapy and family support. Many children with this disorder go on to finish high school, attend college, and can develop meaningful relationships with family and friends.

The following list addresses the ways in which some of the basic symptomatology common to autism and Asperger Syndrome manifests itself differently in each of the disorders.

It is based upon the writer's extensive clincial experience, and is neither intended to serve as an exhaustive list of all of the possible symptoms, nor as the final word on the subject!

A Comparison of Autism and Asperger Syndrome Symptomatology

    “Classic” Autism

    Asperger Syndrome

    Preference for sameness / perseveration

    Tendency toward obsessive-compulsive interests / behavior

    Problems in rapidly & flexibly shifting attention; overfocusing / stimulus overselectivity

    ADD – like deficits in atentional deployment

    High stimulation often causes hyperarousal

    There semms to be a need for high stimulation

    Stimulant medication often worsens symptoms

    Stimulant medication often improves symptoms

    Absence of, or less well-developed imagination

    Overly-developed, sometimes aberrant use of imagination

    Seeming lack of preference for, or interest in, social situations

    May be quite social (though atypically so) re: items / subjects of interests

    Preference for concrete objects

    Preference for factual information

    More pronounced deficits in language

    Superficially “normal” language

    Deficits in both lower- and higher-level pragmatics

    Deficits in higher- level pragmatics

    Lack of facility with language and communication may mask other deficits

    Greater facility with lnaguage and communication may reveal other deficits

    More obvious sensory impairment

    More subtle sensory impairment

    Diagnosis more straight-forward / earlier

    Diagnosis – confusing / later

    Can appear will-less (at mercy of autistic symptomatology)

    Can appear willful / volitional re: behavior

    Deficits more obvious

    Deficits less obvious – blinded by their strengths!

Source: Diane Twachtman-Cullen, Ph.D., CCC/SLP, Executive Director
Autism & Developmental Disabilties Consultation Center

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