The Differences Between Asperger Syndrome And Autism

Young woman.

Autism is a highly known disorder today, with the majority of the population roughly knowing some of its main characteristics. The same goes for Asperger’s syndrome. Both disorders are now part of the so-called autism spectrum disorder or ASD, having been integrated into a single disorder in the DSM 5 due to the presence of very similar symptomatology.

However, if this has not occurred until now, it is because although similar and closely related, there are elements that distinguish them. It is about these characteristics that we are going to talk about in this article: the main differences between Asperger syndrome and Autism

Conceptualizing autism

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by the presence of social, language and behavioral disorders. This is a problem that is usually detected in very early stages of development, Some of the main symptoms can generally be seen before three years of age

In this sense, the presence of communicative deficits stands out, such as the absence or difficulty when using or understanding non-verbal language, difficulties in relating or even in some cases apparent lack of interest in it. It is difficult for them to understand that others have a mind independent of their own, and sometimes they may have instrumental attitudes. They usually reject physical contact (although in some cases they do accept or seek contact from significant people). They often give the impression of being locked inside with little exploratory behavior with the environment.

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It is frequently accompanied by a certain degree of intellectual disability, as well as a delay in the acquisition and development of language (and in some cases it may not be acquired completely). They have great difficulty with the social and pragmatic use of language, and in some cases they can even reach total mutism, or the emission of few sounds.

At a behavioral level, the presence of repetitive and routine interests and activities stands out, with which they usually have a great fixation. They tend to be rigid, having a hard time adapting to new things and needing routines to feel safe. Finally, They may be hypo or hypersensitive to stimulation (frequently in the presence of noise and lights) and it is common for them to present stereotyped movements that serve as self-stimulation.

Asperger’s syndrome

Regarding Asperger’s syndrome, It is also a neurodevelopmental disorder, but it usually takes much longer to be observed, generally when the level of social demand begins to increase and closer ties are established. It shares with autism the existence of interpersonal and communication difficulties, as well as the existence of restricted interests and repetitive behavior patterns (also requiring routines and presenting difficulties in getting used to changes).

They also have difficulties in language, although there is no delay and the problem is limited to the pragmatic use of language and the understanding of figurative language. They tend to be very literal It is difficult for them to capture information regarding other people’s emotions, and it is often difficult for them to express their own, both at the level of verbal and non-verbal language. Most of them have normative cognitive capacity and generally do not suffer from intellectual disabilities.

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Despite this, there is usually a certain motor delay. Typical behavior is usually adaptive and they tend to be curious and interested in the outside environment.

Main differences

Viewing the generic descriptions of both disorders, we can see that although they share a large number of characteristics, they present features that have caused them to be considered different disorders until a few years ago. The main differences are the following.

1. Intellectual capacity

One of the perhaps most notable differences between Asperger’s and autism is found in the tendency to have certain levels of intellectual ability While in Asperger’s an intellectual capacity is usually found in the population average, autism usually presents with some degree of intellectual disability (although in some cases they have a cognitive capacity located in the population average).

2. Adaptive behavior and autonomy

Although there are elements that pose difficulties for both, as a general rule, Asperger’s is usually able to act autonomously without major problems (beyond possible social problems). In the case of typical autism, these difficulties are much greater and those who suffer from it may require continued support

3. Differences in language

Although in both cases some type of language difficulty is manifested, there are great differences when it comes to this ability.

In the case of Asperger’s syndrome, whoever suffers from it tends to present problems with figurative language, the pragmatic use of it or the understanding of aspects linked to emotions (both oral and gestural). However, they generally tend to have a rich vocabulary and speech appropriate to their level of maturation, sometimes even excessively cultured, and they tend to be able to express themselves correctly.

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The person with autism, however, usually presents delayed language with respect to its maturational level having severe difficulties in expressing his thoughts.

4. Contact with others

Both subjects with autism and subjects with Asperger’s are characterized by having social difficulties. However, in the case of Asperger’s, they tend to be interested in establishing social connections, while individuals with autism tend to seek more isolation and avoid contact more.

5. Movements

Another aspect that usually differentiates both disorders is the presence of alterations in movement. In autism, for example, it is common for stereotyped movements to occur, something that does not occur in Asperger’s. However, in the latter case there is usually some delay in motor development, which is not usually described in typical autism.

6. Interest

Although in both cases there are restricted and repetitive, even obsessive, interests, in autism they are usually based on a specific stimulus while in Asperger’s they tend to be broader or more elaborate themes.

7. Age of detection and diagnosis

Although this aspect may not seem to be typical of the disorder, it does give an idea that the symptoms are more or less marked and evident in one case or another.

Typical autism or Kanner type autism is usually diagnosed before the third year of the subject’s life while Asperger syndrome is usually diagnosed much later, normally around the age of seven or even in adolescence.