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What is the difference between autism and Asperger’s?

Asperger’s is no longer a standalone diagnosis, but it’s important to understand the difference between an autism diagnosis and an historical Asperger’s diagnosis. Learning the difference between autism and Asperger’s can impact how families approach treatment.

For over 70 years, doctors treated Asperger’s as its own diagnosis. Many professionals believed Asperger’s was a more mild form of autism, leading to the origin of the phrase “high-functioning”.

Now, children with Asperger’s symptoms are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Their symptoms are typically on the milder side, but every child experiences symptoms differently. Hence the word “spectrum” – ASD features a wide range of symptoms and experiences.

For example, some children with ASD are non-verbal or may have low IQs. Others have superior IQs and only minor social deficits.

No matter the symptoms, it’s important to get treatment for your child with ASD as soon as possible. Early intervention is one of the surest ways that your child will develop necessary life skills and become independent. At Therapeutic Pathways, we offer applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment to help children develop those skills and live satisfying lives.

Keep reading to learn the history of Asperger’s. Then call Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280 for more information on treatment options.

History of Autism Diagnoses

Doctors used to think of Asperger’s Syndrome as a separate condition from autism. Because Asperger’s is associated with less severe symptoms and good language and cognitive skills, doctors issued this diagnosis to “high-functioning” children for decades.

Asperger’s was identified by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger in 1944. He noticed that some children with autism had better-developed social and motor skills and fewer speech problems than their peers. He identified these children as having a condition similar to but undoubtedly unique from autism.

This disorder came to be known as Asperger’s, and it first appeared in the 1994 edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

Today, children experiencing developmental delays and symptoms of autism are instead more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a broad category of developmental disorders that share some symptoms.

Many people believe this change is beneficial. An ASD diagnosis is more inclusive and reflects the fact that autism develops with a range of symptoms.

Range of Symptoms in ASD

Speech and Language

The principal difference between autism and what was once diagnosed as Asperger’s is that the latter features milder symptoms and an absence of language delays. Most children who were previously diagnosed with Asperger’s have good language skills but may have difficulty “fitting in” with their peers. They might feel uncomfortable or awkward, but their language skills were present.

Children with autism, on the other hand, typically exhibit problems with speech and communication. They may have difficulty understanding what someone is saying to them, or they may be unable to pick up on nonverbal cues like hand gestures and facial expressions.

Children with autism also frequently exhibit repetitive or “rigid” language as well as narrow topics of interest. For example, a child with autism may be interested in basketball and only talk about that sport.

Cognitive Functioning

Another difference between autism and what was diagnosed as Asperger’s was in cognitive functioning. By definition, a person with Asperger’s cannot have a “clinically significant” cognitive delay as is usually seen among children with autism. Children on the “lower end” of the spectrum (what was once diagnosed as Asperger’s) have average to above-average intelligence, while other children on the spectrum usually had significant cognitive delays.

For example, a child with autism may have difficulty recognizing and responding appropriately to others’ thoughts and feelings.

Age of Onset

One more difference between autism and Asperger’s is the age of onset, or the age at which a child receives a diagnosis. The average age of diagnosis for a child with autism is four, while a person with Asperger’s may not receive a diagnosis until they are a teenager or adult.

This may be because children with Asperger’s do not exhibit language delays or have lower IQs. Many parents may not realize their child has a developmental delay until they begin school and engage in more social interactions.

Treatment for Children with Autism

Learning about the difference between autism and Asperger’s is helpful, but taking action is even more important. At Therapeutic Pathways, we encourage parents to seek treatment for their child as early as possible. Research suggests that early intervention provides the best opportunity for children to learn valuable independent life skills.

For more information about treatment options, contact Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280.

1. How old is your child or dependent?

2. What are your goals for your child?

3. Has your child been given a formal diagnosis of autism?

4. What types of behavior is your child demonstrating?





Please select a value.

Readiness

Your answers indicate that your child may be best treated in the Readiness program. This individualized, evidence-based program teaches young children skills they need to accelerate their learning and gain independence. Using imitation and naturalistic learning techniques, your child will develop useful skills in the areas of speech and language, cognition, and self-awareness. A program for children ages 0-3. *This is a suggestion based on the answers you submitted. Please contact Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280 to discuss which program would best suit your child.

Foundations

Your answers indicate that your child may be best treated in the Foundations program. This program gives preschool and school-age children the structure to achieve important social, emotional, and intellectual milestones, helping them test within their peers’ range. With 25+ hours of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy per week, your child will develop social skills and better self-awareness for school and home. A program for children ages 4-7. *This is a suggestion based on the answers you submitted. Please contact Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280 to discuss which program would best suit your child.

Breakthroughs

Your answers indicate that your child may be best treated in the Breakthroughs program. Specifically designed for children who have limited hours due to school schedules, this program removes life barriers by developing communication, social, and self-help skills. We teach your child to engage in appropriate behaviors, helping them interact with peers and develop relationships. A program for children ages 8-11.

Interactions

Your answers indicate that your child may be best treated in the Interactions program. Through guided social skills groups twice a week, this program helps improve social functioning in children ages 5 to 16. Parent or caregiver participation is crucial to this program; our certified staff provides training for successful participation.

Independence

Your answers indicate that your child may be best suited for the Independence program. Geared toward older children, this program includes more in-depth skills that will help your child function independently. Taught skills include functional communication, self-management, and financial literacy. A program for individuals ages 12-25. *This is a suggestion based on the answers you submitted. Please contact Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280 to discuss which program would best suit your child.

Your Child My Be Suited to Multiple Programs

Independence

Your answers indicate that your child may be best suited for the Independence program. Geared toward older children, this program includes more in-depth skills that will help your child function independently. Taught skills include functional communication, self-management, and financial literacy. A program for individuals ages 12-25. *This is a suggestion based on the answers you submitted. Please contact Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280 to discuss which program would best suit your child.

Strategies

Your answers indicate that your child may be best suited for the Strategies program. The most age-encompassing of our programs, the goal of Strategies is to reduce challenging behaviors and issues with aggression. These behaviors interfere with independence and community participation, so we work to mitigate those challenges and encourage safe, appropriate behavior for individuals of any age. *This is a suggestion based on the answers you submitted. Please contact Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280 to discuss which program would best suit your child.

Strategies

Your answers indicate that your child may be best suited for the Strategies program. The most age-encompassing of our programs, the goal of Strategies is to reduce challenging behaviors and issues with aggression. These behaviors interfere with independence and community participation, so we work to mitigate those challenges and encourage safe, appropriate behavior for individuals of any age. *This is a suggestion based on the answers you submitted. Please contact Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280 to discuss which program would best suit your child.

Breakthroughs and/or Interactions

Your answers indicate that your child may be best suited to the Breakthroughs or Interactions programs. These programs treat similar symptoms, so Therapeutic Pathways will need to meet with you and your child before we can place them within the appropriate program.

Specifically designed for children who have limited hours due to school schedules, Breakthroughs removes life barriers by developing communication, social, and self-help skills. We teach your child to engage in appropriate behaviors, helping them interact with peers and develop relationships.

Through guided social skills groups twice a week, Interactions helps improve social functioning in children. Parent or caregiver participation is crucial to this program; our certified staff provides training for successful participation.

*This is a suggestion based on the answers you submitted. Please contact Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280 to discuss which program would best suit your child.

Your Child My Be Suited to Multiple Programs

Breakthroughs and/or Interactions

Your answers indicate that your child may be best suited to the Breakthroughs or Interactions programs. These programs treat similar symptoms, so Therapeutic Pathways will need to meet with you and your child before we can place them within the appropriate program.

Specifically designed for children who have limited hours due to school schedules, Breakthroughs removes life barriers by developing communication, social, and self-help skills. We teach your child to engage in appropriate behaviors, helping them interact with peers and develop relationships.

Through guided social skills groups twice a week, Interactions helps improve social functioning in children. Parent or caregiver participation is crucial to this program; our certified staff provides training for successful participation.

*This is a suggestion based on the answers you submitted. Please contact Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280 to discuss which program would best suit your child.

Strategies

Your answers indicate that your child may be best suited for the Strategies program. The most age-encompassing of our programs, the goal of Strategies is to reduce challenging behaviors and issues with aggression. These behaviors interfere with independence and community participation, so we work to mitigate those challenges and encourage safe, appropriate behavior for individuals of any age. *This is a suggestion based on the answers you submitted. Please contact Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280 to discuss which program would best suit your child.