What distinguishes Asperger’s Disorder from Autism Disorder is the severity of the symptoms and the absence of language delays. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may be only mildly affected and frequently have good language and cognitive skills. To the untrained observer, a child with Asperger’s Disorder may just seem like a normal child behaving differently.
Children with autism are frequently seen as aloof and uninterested in others. This is not the case with Asperger’s Disorder. Individuals with Asperger’s Disorder usually want to fit in and have interaction with others; they simply don’t know how to do it. They may be socially awkward, not understanding of conventional social rules, or show a lack of empathy. They may have limited eye contact, seem to be unengaged in a conversation, and not understand the use of gestures.
Interests in a particular subject may border on the obsessive. Children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently like to collect categories of things, such as rocks or bottle caps. They may be proficient in knowing categories of information, such as baseball statistics or Latin names of flowers. While they may have good rote memory skills, they have difficulty with abstract concepts.
One of the major differences between Asperger’s Disorder and autism is that, by definition, there is no speech delay in Asperger’s. In fact, children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently have good language skills; they simply use language in different ways. Speech patterns may be unusual, lack inflection or have a rhythmic nature, or it may be formal, but too loud or high pitched. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may not understand the subtleties of language, such as irony and humor, or they may not understand the give-and-take nature of a conversation.
Another distinction between Asperger’s Disorder and autism concerns cognitive ability. While some individuals with autism experience mental retardation, by definition a person with Asperger’s Disorder cannot possess a “clinically significant” cognitive delay and most possess average to above average intelligence.
While motor difficulties are not a specific criteria for Asperger’s, children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently have motor skill delays and may appear clumsy or awkward.
Although many individuals are highly gifted, an individual with Asperger’s can face a different set of challenges:
- Limited Resources: Regional Centers do not serve children with Asperger’s and we have heard many reports from families whose child did not qualify for special educations services through the school districts.
- Targets for bullies: Because children with Asperger’s are often included in regular education, but still continue to be socially isolated and awkward in conversations, many children are seen as a perfect victim for bullies on the playground. One report advises that 90% of children with Asperger’s are bullied.
- Lack of professionals with Asperger’s experience: Many of our children with Asperger’s have difficulty with higher levels of thinking and organization. It takes a special professional to understand the challenges and have the skills to teach the necessary skills. We have children that have brilliant IQ’s, yet can’t organize their thoughts onto paper. Children who can talk for 2 hours on their favorite subject, but can’t hold a 5 minute reciprocal conversation. A child who will have a complete meltdown if they can’t find their favorite toy, but doesn’t understand why someone is sad that their loved one died.
- Acute awareness of their difference: Many individuals with Asperger’s are aware that they are socially awkward and do not fit in to the social scene. This can lead to increase feelings of depression.
Just many things in life, there are gifts and challenges associated with Asperger’s, but there have been many successful people who are thought to have had ASD including Albert Einstein, Temple Grandin, Thomas Jefferson, and actor Dan Aykroyd.
For a list of famous people who have thought to have Asperger’s visit:
Famous People with Asperger’s Syndrome
Famous People with Autism
“Asperger’s and Self-Esteem: Insight and Hope through Famous Role Models” by Norm Ledgin.
OASIS: Online Asperger’s Syndrome Information and Support. Diagnostic information and resources for treatment. Support areas for families affected by Asperger’s Syndrome.
Liane Holliday - Willey. Professor Liane Holliday Willey is an author, autism consultant, academic researcher, avid horsewoman and owner of an equestrian barn. She has a Doctorate of Education with a specialty in psycholinguistics and learning style differences. Liane likes to share her experiences of living with Asperger’s syndrome with audiences world wide, bringing to each presentation her humor and positive insight along with the real and not so happy memories she has gathered over the years during her stints as a university professor, writer, manure scooper, French fry maker, community volunteer, wife and mother.
Dr. Tony Attwood
- author of several books on Asperger’s including Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, provides information on diagnosis, problems of social relations, sensory issues, motor control and other typical issues which face people with Asperger’s and their support networks. The book has now been translated into 20 languages.