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5. How can you tell autism from Asperger syndrome?

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), Asperger syndrome is characterized by problems with behavior and development of social skills. Because of similarities to symptoms of autism, some practitioners feel that children with these symptoms need careful evaluation and that they may benefit from different types of therapies.

AACAP draws the following similarities and differences between autism and Asperger syndrome:


  • Asperger syndrome appears to have a somewhat later onset than autistic disorder or at least to be recognized later.
  • A child with Asperger syndrome typically functions at a higher level than a child with autism does.
  • It is common for a child with Asperger syndrome to have normal to above-normal intelligence.
  • Although children with Asperger syndrome may have unusual speech patterns, there is usually no delay in language development.
  • In contrast to autistic disorder, there are no clinically significant delays in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior, and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
  • Children with Asperger syndrome may have trouble interacting with children their age. They are often loners and may show behavior that some people may consider eccentric.
  • Many children with Asperger syndrome have problems with muscular coordination and fine motor skills.

According to the AACAP, like autism, a specific cause for Asperger syndrome is not yet known, although there may be a tendency for the condition to run in families.

This may suggest a genetic link, though recent genetic studies have not revealed an “Asperger gene.” The AACAP states that children with Asperger syndrome are at a higher risk for psychiatric problems including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than autistic children. Unlike autistic children, many children with Asperger syndrome finish high school and attend college and can develop healthy relationships outside of their family.

In personal experience, children with autism who have relatively mild symptoms and high IQs are variously referred to by different clinicians as having autism, high-functioning autism, mild autism, and Asperger disorder. This causes much confusion for parents and professionals and implies that these diagnoses represent

separate and distinct disorders differing in clinically meaningful ways and requiring different treatments, which may not be the case.


 Like autism, a specific cause for Asperger syndrome is not yet known, although there may be a tendency for the condition to run in families.

 Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - A disorder of childhood and adolescence characterized by lack of impulse control, inability to concentrate, and hyperactivity. A particular symptom complex with core symptoms including developmentally inappropriate degrees of attention, cognitive disorganization, distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, all of which vary in different situations and at different times. Also called attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Obsessivecompulsive disorder (OCD) - Having a tendency to perform certain repetitive acts or ritualistic behavior to relieve anxiety.



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