Asperger's Syndrome: Is it Different from Autism?

Advertisement

The American Psychiatric Association announced in February that the organization is revision the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV which helps health professionals identify mental health disorders. The fifth edition of the DSM will be officially released in 2013, but some of the new guidelines, especially for those that fall under the Autism Spectrum Disorders, propose that Asperger’s syndrome should not be a separate diagnosis from other autistic disorders generating a furry of comments and concerns.

Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects two-way social interaction, both verbal and nonverbal communication, and a reluctance to accept change. Patients also have an inflexibility of thought and an obsessively narrow area of interest. They require a structured environment and rely on routines. Asperger patients are often highly intelligent, excelling especially in math and science. They have excellent rote memory skills for remembering things such as facts, figures, and dates.

In addition to a deficit in social skills, Asperger patients may also show delayed motor skills and a presence of “motor clumsiness”. They may take longer pedaling a bike, catching a ball, or have trouble with other manipulative tasks such as opening a jar.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that Asperger’s syndrome affects about two out of every 10,000 children. It appears to affect boys more than girls. Unlike autism, language acquisition and cognitive development are not delayed and Asperger’s is usually diagnosed later in childhood.

Advertisement

Because the severity of the symptoms range within the syndrome and some experts do not recognize mild cases, often calling a patient “odd” or “eccentric”, the American Psychiatric Association Committee feels that reclassifying Asperger’s patients as “highly functioning autism” patients may help children get the services and support they need. Dr. Charles Raison, psychiatrist at Emory University, says that “it is more accurate to call it a form of autism. From a scientific point of view, I think the use of these spectrum ideas is much closer to the underlying biology.”

Rosalyn Lord, Coordinator of CASSEL – a support group for Asperger’s patients in the UK – maintains the conditions should remain separate diagnoses. At the Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support (OASIS) Center, she writes that while both syndromes are characterized by a difficulty with social skills, autism is often interpreted as a withdrawal from normal life and the impairments are much greater than those of Asperger’s. Children with autism often have little or no language and have a greater difficulty in learning. Those with Asperger are more verbal and have a cognitive ability that is usually above average.

Both autistic and Asperger patients find the world confusing and frustrating, leading to behavioral problems that need special attention. Language and communication therapies can be helpful for both, but with different focuses. While autistic patients need encouragement to acquire more verbal skills, Asperger patients need help with understanding the subtleties of language – that everything said is not black and white.

Parents of children with both conditions need to understand routines and structure that can be helpful for children diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder. OASIS gives this list of helpful strategies to help, especially with Asperger’s Syndrome children:

• Keep all your speech and instructions simple - to a level they understand. The use of lists or pictures may help.
• Try to get confirmation that they understand what you are talking about/or asking - don't rely on a stock yes or no - that they like to answer with.
• Explain why they should look at you when you speak to them. Encourage them, give praise for any achievement - especially when they use a social skill without prompting.
• In some young children who appear not to listen - the act of 'singing' your words can have a beneficial effect.
• Limit any choices to two or three items.
• Limit their 'special interest' time to set amounts of time each day if you can.
• Use turn taking activities as much as possible, not only in games but at home too.
• Pre-warn them of any changes, and give warning prompts if you want them to finish a task.
• Try to build in some flexibility in their routine, if they learn early that things do change and often without warning - it can help.
• Don't always expect them to 'act their age' they are usually immature and you should make some allowances for this.
• Try to identify stress triggers and avoid them if possible.
• Promises and threats you make will have to be kept - so try not to make them too lightly.
• Let them know that you love them and that you are proud of them. It can be very easy with a child who rarely speaks not to tell them all the things you feel inside.

Share this content.

If you liked this article and think it may help your friends, consider sharing or tweeting it to your followers.
Advertisement

Comments

My son has aspergers syndrom he is 7 yrs old and is pron to headachs is this common thankyou
Autism of any sort is NOT a mental disorder, it is a neurological condition, the stress and anxiety caused by an Autistic Spectrum Condition often leads to mental health problems, can we please get this right? Thumbs up to all kids/adults with ASCs getting all the help they need , bring it on!
I have a son who is aspergers and it was not diagnosed until 8 because he walked and talked at an early age and was doing ok at school. However as he is gettng older , his behaviour has become worse, he has meltdowns and has been on meds. We have a special chart for him for everything from helping him to eat at the table to getting dressed for school. He appears normal, looks normal and goes to a mainstream school, but has all the autistic tendicies that full on autistic kids display. He wears a special hat with ear flaps because he cant stand too much noise and wears a helmet when playing, screams when you clean his teeth and if you say no he explodes. We have to have social stories written for him for many different occasions. He plays his mp3 over and over usually the same 1 or 2 songs because he self soothes. He doesnt get jokes and finds other kids hard to play with although can be quite social. He is good at school so its hard for us as parents because people find it hard to believe this happens so its so frustrating. Aspergers should come under the same name as autism because it is! They just function on a much higher plane. They can obviously go on to work and get married etc. where as autistic kids may live with their parents or homes so this is a major difference I suppose. I just want people to realise that aspergers is autism and people should not comment on this disorder unless they know the facts. The line between high functioning autism is very fine so I am glad its all coming under one heading as ASD. Parents of aspergers kids find it very difficult to get funding at school because we have been fighting for it at our childs school. So changing the name if anything might help parents of aspergers kids get the help and funding they need.
I have a 15 year old son who has as, add, dyslexia, dyspraxia and OCD,s, I also have a husband and daughter with ptsd and i cannot get any help at all at home. I am at the end of my tether and dont know if i can cope for much longer! Is there anyone there who can help?
Perhaps the category change will make people re-think Autism. I have been diagnosed as having High-Functioning Autism, and when I must tell someone that, they obviously must realise that I am not what they think when they think 'Autism'. My IQ scores very high, and my vocabulary has always been over the top, let's say. My problems are social, monotone speech, being overly specific, literal, and logical. I have a degree, and a few Qualifications(Scoring the highest score they have seen in 30 years on the most recent.). I can speak 3 languges(including Thai), and could learn 3 more simultaniously. I'm obviously not sitting and drooling(except over gemstones and simulants;) this is one of my inerests.). Noises and textures have always bothered me, and as a child I could stare at something for hours wondering how it is made. Self-soothing is something I have done all my life. I have an easier time with things because people are so complicated and chageable; social interactions are like piloting an aircraft with faulty navigational instruments on a cloudy night. To get somewhere in life I learn logically what comes naturally to most people. Yes, this is Autism.
You sound just like my ten-year-old son, who was just diagnosed with high functioning autism. I love reading your comments, and knowing that he will be better than okay. You both have so much to contribute to this world!
I am aspergers. It's something you are, not something you have. It is very different from autism, since we may have extreme self control, unlike many autistics. It's like a right brained autism - whereas normal autism seems to be a left brain anomaly. Many of us are very well coordinated, though not with regard to a three body problem(catching a ball, or even throwing it) We tend to react more slowly because we are parsing our entire sensorium through our "left brain" circuitry. Competition - as in games, seems rather pointless, since nothing is produced, and the result is known(some winners, some losers, who cares whom). We wear our hearts on our sleeves to our detriment, though we can be strategic in planning. We can never be impulsive or impetuous, and that makes us very undesirable sexually and romantically. We can compensate to a degree by faking it intellectually - creating a "false spontaneity". We can never be truly transparent or "open" unless under the influence of certain (no longer legal) drugs. While many aspies would prefer to remain themselves, I'd do anything to create a permanent relationship with a pretty woman, including changing everything about myself.
you sir, are my hero, this fits me down to a tee (i was diagnosed with AS at age 12, im 17 now) and i agree with everything you have to say, its unfortunately impossible for most people to comprehend
They are different and I should know because I have both I also have a disorder related to each and those are ADHD and terretes ( sorry can't spell that right but I'm talking about the tic disorder) any ways if anyone should know its me because even though they are similar they are different as well but all in all they are not the same thing.
Help me find help for my 30 year old son with High Functioning Autism/Aspergers counseling in Fresno California. He struggles with friendships, communication with us (his parents). He can't enroll in school as he can't be around a large crowd. Education seems like a waste of time. He is on SSI so he cannot afford to pay for school. He can talk about quantum physics yet not have a normal fun conversation. Please help us help him. He needs direction so badly.