Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism are not the same, but they do have similar qualities.
In fact, people with Asperger’s were thought to have a mild form of autism at one point, since the disorder was only discovered in 1944 by Hans Asperger, according to an abnormal psychology text book.
Despite the discovery in the 1940s, Asperger’s disorder was not separated from autism until the early 1980s because of Lorna Wing’s recommendation, the text book stated.
Some people still refer to Asperger’s as “high-functioning autism” or a mild form of autism. For example, in the book “Asperger’s and Self-Esteem: Insight and Hope Through Famous Role Models,” by Norm Ledgin, the preface refers to Asperger’s as high-functioning autism.
In the foreword of the same book, Tempe Grandin wrote, “I was diagnosed with autism because I had delayed speech. Children diagnosed with Asperger’s are a milder variant, and speech development is usually within the normal range.”
The main differences between Asperger’s and autism are that people with Asperger’s disorder “have normal intelligence and verbal skills,” according to Discovery Health. There is not generally a language delay, like not speaking or having major difficulties speaking. However, they still may have problems with some aspects of language.
For example, “They may be very literal and have trouble understanding facial expressions or body language,” according to Discovery Health.
Also, those with autism don’t necessarily want to interact with others and appear to be “aloof and uninterested.” Those with Asperger’s have more of a desire to “fit in” and interact with others but are limited by their language difficulties, according to Discovery Health. They might not have eye contact as well.
Discovery Health’s Web site also stated that “Asperger syndrome is more likely to:
• appear later in a child's development
• see a more positive outcome
• bring about less severe social and communication difficulties
• bring about more prominent and singular obsessions
• result in higher verbal IQ
• result in lower performance IQ
• increase "clumsiness"
• decrease instances of related neurological disorders”
Going back to the language abilities of those with Asperger’s, they may use more formal language and not understand certain aspects of a conversation, like irony. They may also speak in tones or pitches that are awkward in a conversation, according to the Autism Society.
Other differences are that people with autism sometimes have a lower intelligence than those without autism, whereas people with Asperger’s generally have an average to above average intelligence, according to the Autism Society.
For more information, check out the sources below.
“Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach,” by David Barlow and Mark Durand