Once Considered Its Own Diagnosis Asperger’s Is Now Recognized As The Higher End Of The Autistic Spectrum Here Is How Autism And Asperger’s Are Similarand Different
Hyejin Kang/ShutterstockIn 1996, Gale Cohen sobbed uncontrollably when her toddler was given a diagnosis of pervasive development delay , the lower end of the autistic spectrum. She spent the next several years of his life looking for clues that he was a higher-functioning Aspie, the nickname for those with Aspergers syndrome on the high end of the spectrum. Cohen was repeatedly told by professionals in the field that labeling kids on the spectrum was iffy at best, and not an indicator of future success. Even so, she breathed a sigh of relief when her sons teachers started referring to him as an Aspie, several years later.
All that changed in 2013, when the American Psychiatric Associations DSM-5 reclassified all types of autism, including PDD and Aspergers, as a single spectrum. Luckily for Cohen and her son, the early warnings about not holding onto labels held true. He went on to graduate from college, and pursue a successful music career. She went on to realize that labeling people on the spectrum was an inaccurate science, at best.
Differences Between Autism And Tourette Syndrome
There can be confusion regarding the difference between autism and Tourette Syndrome. They are different types of disorders that do have similarities but considerable differences. Autism is a disorder characterized by repetitive behavior and impaired communication and social interaction. Whereas, Tourette Syndrome is a disorder evident by the presence of multiple physical tics and at least one vocal tic, such as repetitive eye blinking or throat clearing.
Autism is one of the five pervasive developmental disorders, which include Asperger syndrome and Rett syndrome. These disorders are characterized by abnormalities in social interaction and communication, highly repetitive behavior, and severely restricted interests. TS is not in this group.
What Are The Three Types Of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Just like there is more than one type of anxiety disorder, diabetes, or developmental disorder, there is more than one type of autism. In anxiety, for example, there are five completely separate types, each with their own symptoms, some unique to the other types and some types sharing similar symptoms on a spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder is considered the broad term for autism, but there are actually three separate sub-types that fit within the ASD category.
When you think about a spectrum, think of seeing different shades of blue all together in one band. All of the shades are technically blue, but they range from lightest to darkest. You can also think of a rating scale with two extremes or opposite points. The term autism spectrum disorder should be viewed similarly there is a spectrum of symptoms that someone with autism can exhibit, ranging from mild to severe.
You may be one of the millions of people around the world affected by autism. Or you might know someone personally affected by the disorder or have realized its impact on people and the world. Either way, it is encouraged that you educate yourself on what autism is and what the three types of autism spectrum disorders are. In doing so, you will have a better understanding about the disorder, which can help you to interact and communicate more effectively with individuals who are on the spectrum and to put yourself in their shoes.
The three types of ASD that will be discussed are:
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Aspergers Syndrome Vs High
Note: At the time of this article Aspergers was a separate diagnosis, however, it is no longer used and falls within the broader ASD diagnosis with a higher functioning level.
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder and the fastest-growing developmental disability among children. Learning that your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder can be a shock, and it is overwhelming to parents who do not yet understand what the diagnosis will mean for their child and how they can help. Even more frustrating for some parents is that within ASD are two separate diagnoses that are often used interchangeably by medical professionals, despite key differences between them. Aspergers Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism are singular diagnoses with differences in language development, age of onset, and cognitive function.
How Common Is Asperger Syndrome
Autism, including Asperger syndrome, is much more common than most people think. There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK that’s more than 1 in 100. People with Asperger syndrome come from all nationalities and cultural, religious and social backgrounds. Historically, more men have been diagnosed as autistic than women, although this is beginning to change.
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How Asperger Syndrome Is Diagnosed
The characteristics of Asperger syndrome vary from one person to another, although there are some key traits that autistic people share. These are:
- persistent difficulties with or differences in social communication and social interaction
- restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests since early childhood, to the extent that these impact negatively on day to day life.
The diagnosis process usually involves a multi-disciplinary diagnostic team – often including a speech and language therapist, paediatrician, psychiatrist and/or psychologist.Because Asperger syndrome varies widely from person to person, making a diagnosis can be difficult. It is often diagnosed later in children than autism and sometimes symptoms may not be recognised and diagnosed until adulthood.
Similarities Of Autism And Aspergers
As mentioned before, Aspergers is now a part of autism spectrum disorders.
However, back when the syndrome had its own diagnosis, the symptoms were really similar to that of autism. The following were the similar symptoms:
- Difficulty in interpreting verbal and non-verbal language
- Difficulty in understanding gestures, facial expressions, jokes, etc.
- Difficulty in understanding others thoughts and feelings
- Difficulty in expressing emotions
- Depth of knowledge in that area of interest
- Sensitivity to certain sounds, textures, smells, tastes, etc.
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What Is Autism And Asperger Syndrome
Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects early in childhood and affects daily functioning. An autism spectrum disorder is a wide variation in challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.
According to NINDS, Asperger Syndrome is a developmental disorder. They face a different type of difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication. They communicate with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. Aspergers Syndrome is a mild form of Autism.
How Is Aspergers Syndrome Diagnosed
As mentioned above, Aspergers Syndrome is no longer diagnosed as a condition in and of itself. It is part of the range of conditions included in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
If a parent is concerned about a childs social development, unusual language patterns, and odd behaviors, a pediatrician should be consulted. The pediatrician can determine if the child should be seen by a specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician, psychologist, or other clinician who is familiar with ASD.
Testing and assessment usually involve a team of medical and psychological professionals. The specialists will ask the parent many questions about the childs development and current skills and problems. They will also interact with the child and conduct assessments to evaluate what symptoms the child shows when interacting with others. They may also assess the childs language and intellectual abilities. A medical doctor might ask questions or order tests to make sure there are no other medical concerns for the child.
Aspergers Syndrome may be difficult to diagnose. Sometimes this condition can be confused with other conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder , Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder . Making sure to evaluate the childs social and communication skills, their patterns of behavior and thinking, and how these symptoms have developed over time will help the assessor provide the correct diagnosis.
Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders
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The Benefits Of An Asperger Syndrome Diagnosis
Some people see a formal diagnosis as an unhelpful label, but for many, getting a thorough assessment and diagnosis may be helpful because:
- it helps people with Asperger syndrome to understand why they may experience certain difficulties and what they can do about them
- it allows people to access services and support.
Asperger Therapies And Services
Find the following services near you using the Autism Speaks Resource Guide.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help address anxiety and other personal challenges.
Social skills training classes can help with conversational skills and understanding social cues.
Speech therapy can help with voice control.
Physical and occupational therapy can improve coordination.
Psychoactive medicines can help manage associated anxiety, depression and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder .
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What Does This Mean For Me
This greater understanding of the diverse nature of autism has meant changes in the way Autism Spectrum Disorder is assessed and diagnosed.
Generally, children and young people in South Australia are diagnosed using the criteria set out in the DSM 5, which no longer includes Aspergers syndrome, but are instead diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Diagnosis Of Autism And Aspergers
As we discussed before, Aspergers Syndrome is now a part of ASD diagnosis. Its signs and symptoms differ from one person to another.
There are certain symptoms that need to be present in an individual in order for ASD diagnosis to be made.
The person will be assessed in terms of having persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction and restricted and repetitive behaviors. These are seen since early childhood.
The following symptoms can mean that your child has ASD. If you see the following signs in your child, seek professional help:
- Lack of eye contact
- Depth of knowledge in that area of interest
- Sensitivity to certain sounds, textures, smells, tastes, etc.
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Difference No : Iq May Be Higher Than Normal
While kids with autism typically have a below average IQ, those with Aspergers may have higher-than-normal intelligence.
Some children with Aspergers have a very advanced vocabulary and may become experts in memorizing facts about a specific subject. For instance, they may remember and recite specific sports statistics or facts about dinosaurs.
Some kids with Aspergers are described as gifted and having intellectual talents. They may perform exceptionally well academically, but this isnt always the case, as many also have behavioral problems that can hold them back.
What Does The Future Hold For People With Aspergers
A popular fiction book, The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, puts forth the question, would you cure your Aspergers if you could? Without giving up the books ending, some Aspies would say yes, and others, no. In real life, being different simply means you are different, not better and not worse. People with Aspergers, such as the popular poster child for this condition, Temple Grandin, continue to make incredible contributions to society and the growth of culture. Armchair historians posit that Renoir, Churchill, and Einstein, among others, had this condition. Comedian and actress Amy Schumer and husband Chris Fischer recently went public about his high-functioning ASD diagnosis. Schumer all but gushed about his autistic traits, expressing that it was those traits which made her love him in the first place.
Whether it is recognized as its own diagnosis or not, for many, being an Aspie is a thing. For others, it is simply an ingredient in the soup of personality which makes them who they are. Scientific discoveries about ASD continue to unfold. For those on the spectrum, no matter where they are, the future holds the same level of promise that it does for all of us. Know a parent of a child with autism? Avoid saying these 12 seemingly innocent things.
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How Does Aspergers Differ From Autism
Autism is also referred to as ASD, or autism spectrum disorder and, according to Autism Speaks, ASD is comprised of many subtypes. This can help explain why Aspergers syndrome became a category of its own. Unlike many children on the lower end of the spectrum, kids with Aspergers have average-to-high, or very high intelligence. Many also exhibit talents in a wide range of fields, including tech and the arts. As was the case with Cohen in the 1990s, this diagnosis was comforting. It also may have been ultimately misleading, since many children at all levels of the spectrum go on to live happy lives and achieve great things. Autism is now understood to occur on a spectrum of severity. When they were considered to be separate diagnoses, Aspergers was differentiated from autism in two main areas:
- Severity. Those diagnosed with Aspergers were higher functioning and typically had average to superior IQs, requiring less support than those diagnosed with autism.
- Language. Those diagnosed with Aspergers had no speech or language impairment, explains Tia Kern-Butler, PhD.
Autism Exists On A Spectrum So Whats A Spectrum
Spectrum means autism affects different people in different ways.
Autism can significantly and visibly impact every area of your life, or you may be high-functioning, and that impact is less obvious.
So autism isnt like a light switch, which is either on or off. Its more like a dimmer switch, with many variations of brightness.
That means no two people with autism are exactly alike.
Heres another way of thinking about what that means: imagine each of the bullet points listed above has a volume control attached to it.
Each person with autism has their own set of volume dials, some turned up high, some turned down low.
For example: a student may be significantly affected in how they respond to the senses, so that volume control is turned up to a 9 or 10. But their autism affects their empathy to a lesser extent, and that dial is turned to a 3 or 4.
The result is every person with autism has their own set of dials, uniquely describing their individual needs and preferences.
And these will be different from everybody else.
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History Of The Autism Diagnosis
The term autism was originally coined in 1911 by psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, and was at first meant to denote the social withdrawal and detachment that often accompanies schizophrenia . Later, in the 1940s, when both American Leo Kanner and Austrian Hans Asperger were working on defining the childhood disorders they were treating, they came across the concept of autism in their research, and decided it was an apt description for the various symptoms they had been attempting to treat in children. Over time, Kanner realized these children were not actually experiencing schizophrenia, but rather something else, which he dubbed infantile autism. Asperger added onto this body of knowledge by ascertaining that some of the children referred to his child psychiatry clinic were suffering from a condition that had not been hitherto properly described, but which loosely fit what Bleuler had defined as autism . Kanners work was highly accurate and detailed for its time, and formed the cornerstone of future research into autism, particularly after his paper gained widespread recognition in the English-speaking world.
Following Kanners paper, the diagnosis of infantile autism came into popular use as the 1950s and 60s progressed, and Kanners work largely overshadowed Aspergers, who remained mostly unknown outside Europe.
Some debate still exists today around the four main areas of difference that separate Aspergers syndrome from high-functioning autism:
What Should I Do If My Child Has Aspergers
As we mentioned numerous times before, Aspergers Syndrome is no longer diagnosed as a condition by itself.
It is now a part of many disorders categorized under the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
If you are concerned that your child may have issues with their social development, unusual patterns and different behaviors, you should consult a pediatrician first.
Pediatrician will be able to assess the situation and may refer your child to a specialist if need be.
These specialists include developmental pediatricians, child clinical psychologists or other clinicians who are experienced in dealing with autism spectrum disorders. They will conduct certain tests to see if the child is on the spectrum.
The specialist will ask parents and caregivers various questions to determine the childs development and other skills and issues.
They will also interact with the child to detect if there are any symptoms in terms of interacting with others. In this assessment, the childs language abilities will also be examined.
Getting a correct diagnosis on your childs disorder will be a great way to start to equip them with what they need to have a balanced and normal life.
It may be a difficult process for the parents and caregivers to get ASD diagnosis. But with professional help and your support, your child can receive therapies and interventions that will help them live an independent and a quality life.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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