Is there a difference between Asperger’s and autism? If so, what are the differences? Many people use both terms but are not always aware of the history, meaning, and context.
Although there seems to have been an increase in awareness and trying to understand autism and other diagnoses, there are still plenty of questions and concerns to uncover. So, where do we begin?
The History of Asperger’s
Hans Asperger discovered and coined the term “Asperger’s syndrome” in 1944. This behavioral classification was used for people with a hard time in social interactions and communication skills.
Asperger’s syndrome has changed through history, and although it is no longer used as a standalone diagnosis, it is now encompassed in the spectrum disorder that is autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here are some historical changes that Asperger’s syndrome has gone through:
- 1944: Hans Asperger discovers and coins the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome
- 1981: Wing L. starts to research and reopen the diagnostic criteria for “autistic psychopathy” and renames it Asperger’s syndrome
- 1989: the first significant system for classification
- 1993: 10th Revisions of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) is introduced for Asperger’s syndrome
- 1994: Asperger’s syndrome was introduced as a standalone diagnosis, along with autistic disorder within the diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). At the time, researchers focused more on differentiating high-functioning autism (HFA) from Asperger’s syndrome and symptoms
- 2013 Asperger’s symptoms and diagnostic criteria were removed
What is Asperger’s?
Individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s tend to:
- have challenges with social interaction; and
- communication skills.
They also tend to have average and above-average intelligence, especially regarding any specific interests in topics they may have.
What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
Autism spectrum disorder is a spectrum disorder that is characterized by:
- lack of social interaction and skills;
- challenges with language skills and language development;
- difficulty maintaining eye contact;
- challenges in understanding nonverbal communication;
- expressing communication;
- different behavioral patterns and issues;
- lack of facial expressions;
- repetitive behaviors;
- exhibit language delays; and
- difficulty creating and maintaining relationships.
Due to the complexity of autism being a spectrum disorder, ranging from less severe to more severe symptoms, an autism diagnosis can be tricky to diagnose and understanding different autistic people. That is why it is so vital for families of autistic children to make sure to ask questions and talk to medical professionals if they have any questions or concerns.
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What Are Some Similarities and Differences?
Individuals that were previously diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome are now diagnosed on the autism spectrum because the Asperger’s diagnosis was removed in 2013. Each individual’s experience with autism tends to be different and unique, and the spectrum is so broad that no two people diagnosed with autism are the same.
Talking to a medical professional is the first step when families seek a diagnosis. The doctor or medical professional will then assess the child and send them to receive a more comprehensive diagnosis by psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and occupational therapists.
After that process, the doctor and team will typically review the results. After looking at the developmental history and observing the individual’s behaviors, they will use some assessment tools like the Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI) or the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS).
What Support and Interventions are Available?
After a diagnosis, seeking different support and interventions is essential. There are numerous programs and support available.
Groups like autism support groups, siblings of autistic children groups, or SibShops, among age-specific social groups, can help children learn, broaden, and practice new social skills or other goals the children are working on. Interventions like:
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA);
- speech therapy;
- DIR Floortime
- occupational therapy;
- social skills training; and
- behavioral therapies that can be tailored to the individual’s needs and skills at the time.
Inclusion is such an important aspect that helps raise awareness, make sure that there are equal opportunities provided for people with autism spectrum disorders and other differing abilities, and make sure to promote acceptance of the differences that differing abilities bring.
Bringing forward education and shining a light on autism spectrum disorder, what it is, and how society can help support those with autism.
When it comes to society, a better understanding of autism and its differences and challenges for the individual, family, and society. Making sure to spread education about autism, discuss and debunk stereotypes, and support inclusive learning and a working environment is a start in the right direction.
This article discussed whether there were differences between Asperger’s and autism, what they were, what to do, and what inclusion could be. Working towards debunking stereotypes and other buzzwords that tend to surround autism will help make for a more understanding and inclusive environment.
The increased understanding and awareness have helped people with Asperger’s understand those around them and society to understand the autistic individual better. The ultimate goal is to provide a supportive community with a wholly inclusive society, embracing neurodivergence among different people.
These goals and aspirations are realistic and can come to fruition with the hard work and consistency of passionate individuals, including families, medical professionals, mental health professionals, educators, autistic people, and others.
Hosseini, S. & Molla, M. (2023). Asperger Syndrome. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32491480/