In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM IV) there is a category entitled “Pervasive Developmental Disorders.” Aspergers is one of the five diagnoses under this umbrella heading. Although not stated in the DSM IV, many clinicians use the term “Autism Spectrum Disorder” (ASD) to describe a continuum of related disorders, including autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD NOS), and Aspergers. Most clinicians feel Aspergers is at the high end of a rather long continuum. It is important to bear in mind that while individuals on the spectrum share certain characteristics, they may look very different from one another. Therefore, the diagnosis of ASD is considered to be a heterogeneous one.
What difficulties do people with ASD share?
There are three main categories of difficulties people on the spectrum have in common. These difficulties are:
- Restricted and/or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests and activities
- Impairment is social interaction
- Impairment in communication
What is the difference between Aspergers and autism?
At this point in time, there does not seem to be a consensus regarding the distinction between Aspergers and autism. There does seem to be agreement that people with Aspergers, like those with autism, share difficulties in the three areas mentioned above. There is less agreement about what distinguishes one diagnosis from the other. According to the definition used in the DSM IV, in Aspergers, there can be no delay in the development of language. In other words, although language is disordered, words, phrases, and sentences came in at the expected time. However, research suggests almost 50 per cent of kids with Aspergers are late in their development of speech, but they are usually talking fluently by the age of five. The definition of Aspergers in the DSM IV does not cover enough people, since many, if not most of these kids had delays in language development.
Another distinction has to do with cognition. In autism, there is an enormous range of intellectual functioning. In Aspergers, cognition is normal and often gifted in certain areas.
Lastly, some clinicians believe that the difficulties with social relatedness are more severely impaired in autism than in Aspergers.
The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide: A Complete Resource Guide For Parents Who Have Children Diagnosed With Aspergers Syndrome