"What is the real difference between Asperger's Syndrome and Autism? When I tell people that my daughter has Asperger's, they usually ask me, 'What is Asperger's exactly?' And I say, 'It's a form of Autism.' But that doesn't really help them to understand Asperger's since there is supposedly a big difference between the two disorders."
There is a great deal of confusion when it comes to the differences between Aspergers and Autism. It seems that even medical professionals have difficulty determining a clear line between the two disorders. Often, it boils down to simply categorizing children according to the specific traits they exhibit, such as how they use language. However, there are some professionals who assert that Aspergers and Autism are actually the same disorder and should both fall under the heading of Autism.
It's important to understand Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) when trying to determine the differences (or lack thereof) between Aspergers and Autism. PDDs are neurobiological disorders that include a wide spectrum of conditions, including Aspergers and Autism. PDDS are marked by much delayed or significantly lacking social and language skills. A child with a PDD will usually have problems communicating with others and understanding language. Often, children with these conditions ignore or fail to understand facial expressions, and they may not make eye contact as most people expect in social situations.
Autism is the most well known of the disorders classified as PDDs. Autistic kids look just like everyone else. It is their behavior that is different, and they appear withdrawn and often resist to change. They tend to throw tantrums, shake, flap or move their bodies in odd ways, and laugh or cry for what seems like no reason.
Kids with Autism may play in a way that it considered odd and exhibit obsessive attachments to certain objects. They may act as if they are deaf, ignore verbal cues, repeat certain words over and over again, or be entirely non-verbal. In those who are verbal, a lack of ability to start a conversation is often evident.
Aspergers is often considered within the spectrum of Autism. A child with Aspergers may exhibit odd or abnormal verbal communication skills. He may also avoid peer relationships, lack interest in others, fail to return emotional feelings, form obsessive attachments to subjects of interest, and have repetitive behaviors. He may exhibit repetitive movements, such as flapping or twisting. Interestingly, children with Aspergers generally do not experience delays in language or cognitive development, and they are often very curious about their environment.
It is important to note that not all children with Aspergers and Autism lack the ability to function normally. Some are considered highly-functioning and are capable of caring for themselves and interacting socially. However, these young people are usually seen as odd or eccentric because they still have behaviors that don't mesh with what most people consider normal.
Since Aspergers and Autism are seen as so similar, some people draw a line between the two at language development and social awareness. It seems that those with Aspergers typically have more normal language development, though many still have disordered language and communication skills. Kids and teens with Aspergers also tend to be more interested in - and aware of - social interactions than those with Autism. However, social skills must be taught and even practiced, as they generally don't come naturally to young people with this disorder.