Q&A: What’s the difference between autism and Asperger’s Syndrome?

This post is an installment in an ongoing series in which I will post answers I have previously given to questions relating to autism. My hope is to provide quick and easy answers to common questions about ASD. This question and my answer has previously been posted on a question answering website.

Questions:

How can you tell autism from Asperger’s Syndrome?

How is Asperger’s different from autism?

Given that these are two different questions I answered, I will give both of the answers I have to each of these questions. However, given their similarity I have put them in the same post here on this blog.

My answers:

“When the two diagnoses were seperate, they were only differentiated by when the person talked. If they began speaking at a ‘normal’ age, then the diagnosis was Asperger’s. If there was a language delay, it was Autistic Disorder, or ‘Classic Autism.’

Now the two diagnoses have been merged into the single diagnosis ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder,’ so Asperger’s isn’t given as a diagnosis anymore.”

And:

“There are no longer multiple diagnoses for autism, just one. The DSM-5 collapsed the autism spectrum category (Asperger’s Syndrome, Autistic Disorder, PDD-NOS, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder) into the single diagnosis Autism Spectrum Disorder. So Asperger’s Syndrome isn’t given as a diagnosis anymore.

Contrary to popular belief, Asperger’s Syndrome was never differentiated by severity, or intelligence, or anything like that. The only difference in the DSM-IV was whether or not that person had a delay in when they acquired language. If they began talking at a ‘normal’ age, the diagnosis was Asperger’s Syndrome. If they talked later than what should be expected, the diagnosis was ‘Autistic Disorder’ or what some call “Classic Autism.” Asperger’s Syndrome was never given as simply a ‘mild autism’ diagnosis. Severity was never a criteria for the different diagnoses.

And Asperger’s Syndrome was always listed under the Autism category in the DSM-IV, so Asperger’s actually is autism, just a ‘type’ of autism. All of those diagnoses are autism. One of the reasons they merged them was to get over the ambiguity of whether or not those other diagnose ‘were autism.'”

(Note that these answers do not apply everywhere, as Asperger’s Syndrome is still a diagnosis that is given in countries that do not use the DSM. However, given that I live in the United States and the USA is the biggest demographic for this blog, I have answered from that perspective).

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