Autism or Asperger’s – is there a difference?
Since 2013, Asperger’s has been considered to be a type of autism. People exhibiting symptoms of Asperger syndrome are now referred to as “on the autism spectrum,” although many doctors still refer to the condition as AS (Asperger Syndrome), and those with Asperger Syndrome tend to fall on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum.
Asperger’s Disorder has less severe symptoms than “classic” autism; additionally, language delays seen in autism are absent in Asperger’s Disorder. In fact, children with Asperger’s Disorder may be only mildly affected, and often actually have exceptionally good language and cognitive skills.
Further, children with autism usually seem detached and disinterested in others. This is not the case with Asperger’s Disorder. Those with Asperger’s often want to fit in and have interaction with others, they just don’t know how to. They may be socially awkward, have limited eye contact, seem uninterested in a conversation and not understand the use of gestures or sarcasm.
They often become obsessed with a given subject that they’re interested in, even collecting categories of things, such as rocks or bottle caps. They’re often extremely knowledgeable in specific categories of information, such as baseball statistics or Latin names of flowers, etc. They may have good rote memory skills but struggle with abstract concepts.
One of the major differences between Asperger’s Disorder and autism is that, by definition, there is no speech delay in Asperger’s. In fact, children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently have good language skills; but simply use language in different ways. Speech patterns may be unusual, lack inflection or have a rhythmic nature, or may be formal, too loud or high-pitched. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may not understand the subtleties of language, such as irony and humor, or they may not understand the back and forth nature of conversation.
Another distinction between Asperger’s Disorder and autism concerns cognitive ability. While some individuals with autism have intellectual disabilities, someone with Asperger’s rarely have any significant cognitive delay, in fact most show average to above-average intelligence.
Motor skill difficulties are not a specific to Asperger’s, but children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently have motor skill delays, seeming clumsy or awkward.
So what exactly IS Asperger’s Disorder?
- It is a neurological condition, affecting how information is processed in the brain.
- It is a hidden disability. Many people with Asperger’s may appear competent, but struggle with communication and social interaction.
- There is a genetic and hereditary component, possibly even interactive environmental causes
- Asperger’s is a developmental disability. All individuals have social/emotional delays, but there will be lifelong, ongoing growth.
- The incidence of Asperger’s is thought to be 1 in 250, with as many as 50% going undiagnosed.
- Although currently four times as many males as females are diagnosed with Asperger’s, it is thought that the true ratio may be more like one female for every two males.
How does Asperger’s affect the individual?
Although Asperger’s affects each person differently, there is a core set of features that most people have, including:
- High intelligence and good verbal skills
- Struggling with the use and understanding of language in social settings
- Having trouble relating to what others are thinking and feeling
- Having to be learn social behavior that comes intuitively to most people
- Lacking the ability to recognize and respond to non-verbal cues (hand movements, facial expressions, tones of voice)
- Difficulty with organization, initiation, prioritizing skills
- Obsessing over small details rather than seeing the bigger picture
- Experiencing obsessions with interests such as movies, geography, history, math, physics, cars, horses, dogs or reptiles, etc. These interests may change frequently, or not at all.
- Difficulty compromising or seeing gray areas.
- Feeling different, like an outsider
- Occasional feelings of anxiety/depression
- Extreme and debilitating hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to light, noise, touch, taste, or smell. Their surroundings can impact on their ability to function
What are some specific struggles that those with Asperger’s are facing?
- Eye contact. It can be difficult, even painful, for those with Asperger’s.
- They may be/feel clumsy, most have poor fine motor skills; BUT some actually excel in individual sports
- Some with Asperger’s have secondary diagnoses, such as ADD, Borderline, or OCD.
- They may have genius-level skill in a particular areas such as painting, writing, math, music, history, electronics, or composing.
- People with Asperger’s may be uncomfortable working in a group setting
- Children with Asperger’s may have meltdowns lasting from 10 minutes to several hours. The child is not in control of his/her behavior during these meltdowns.
- Self-esteem can be an issue for individuals with Asperger’s, especially during middle school.
- Many are extremely good at memorizing facts and information.
Is there a cure or treatment for Asperger’s?
Many people believe that asking whether Aspergers can be cured implies that it is a disease, which it is not. Asperger’s isn’t a defect so much as a difference: i.e., the brain is wired somewhat differently than that of the so-called “neurotypical.” When someone has a math question, or is trying to figure out who sang a certain song on the radio, the Asperger’s person is usually the first one consulted! Can you imagine sitting in a business meeting with facts and figures flying, and having the ability to comprehend it all!? Certainly these neuro-differences can cause problems in a neuro-typical world, but they can also be very beneficial if channeled and directed properly!
Accepting the diagnosis and what it means to you and your loved ones
- Our skilled, experienced counselor here at Thriveworks Blacksburg can help you or your loved one with Asperger’s learn how and when to talk about it to others
- Here you’ll find instruction for adults in the area of budgeting and housekeeping and more
- We’ll help you take a good look at social and physical environments to ensure that these spaces are tolerable for the person with AS
- We can teach improved social and communication skills
- Our therapist may be able to assist with setting up routines and preparing for transitions
- You may even learn how to handle transitions and social events where many unknown people will be in attendance
Call 540-376-3348 today to start working with our Asperger Syndrome specialist at Thriveworks Blacksburg.