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What's the Difference Between Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism?

“I'm seriously confused! I have an 8yr old that was recently diagnosed with HFA and has been diagnosed with ADHD since he was 5 1/2yrs old. I've been trying to understand all the diagnoses and changes I've seen in my youngest child, but it's so confusing. Is Asperger Syndrome the same as High Functioning Autism? How are these two different from Autism? Please give me some insight as I'm losing my mind and already suffer from Depression. Thank you, Very concerned mommy.”

Asperger’s (AS), along with other autism disorders, falls along a “spectrum.” This spectrum has been called the autism spectrum. Whatever it is called, Autistic Disorder (or autism) would fall at one end of the spectrum, while “average” or “neurotypical” functioning would be found at the other end. AS has been conceptualized as a mild, less problematic form of autism that falls between average functioning and autism on this continuum.

This means that kids with autism experience many of the same symptoms as those with AS. However, the symptoms of autistic kids are usually more severe, and their functioning is much more impaired (e.g., while a youngster with AS may have difficulty using language socially, a youngster with autism may be mute). Both AS and Autistic Disorders may involve:
  • difficulties interacting with others
  • difficulty using language socially
  • lack of understanding or interest in others' feelings
  • narrow interests or abilities
  • odd motor behaviors
  • poor nonverbal communication skills
  • social rejection
  • rigidity (as opposed to flexibility) in play

Autism is the more severe form of problems with social interaction, restricted behaviors and areas of interest, and impaired language skills (e.g., while a youngster with AS may have difficulty interacting with others socially and forming friendships, a youngster with autism may often avoid direct eye contact with everybody, dislike physical touch including the experience of hugs or loving touches, and may not develop verbal skills).

According to the present diagnostic criteria, children with autism usually experience significant delay in the acquisition of language skills (e.g., the youngster did not use single words before the age of 2; communicative phrases were not used until after age 3). Cognitive skills are also often impaired. On the other hand, children with AS probably did not experience delay or impairment in cognitive or language skills. Also, while children with autism show little interest in peer interaction, children with AS often seek such companionship.

Re: The difference between AS and HFA—

Many children identified as having High-Functioning Autism (HFA) had more pronounced symptoms of autism when they were younger. As they aged, the development of basic social skills, age appropriate cognitive skills, and verbal ability occurred. HFA is a term that was most often used here in the United States and often applies to kids who qualified for a diagnosis of autism when they were younger. Controversy still exists within the literature about the differences between these diagnoses. Some professionals use the terms interchangeably. At this point, the symptoms associated the two labels (AS and HFA) are considered to be mostly identical.

Re: The dual-diagnosis of ADHD and AS—

To complicate matters even more, there is also a significant overlap between the symptoms of ADHD and AS. More on that topic can be found here: The Aspergers-ADHD Overlap

1 comment:

Full Spectrum Mama said...

Yes - so much overlap between so many of the expressions of neurodivresity from ADHD to SPD to ASD...
And each of us is unique as well, of course.
Nice clear post - thanks.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...