Saturday, February 10, 2007

Autism vs. Asperger's Syndrome

Autism is characterised by three types of impairment, all of which are present in some way:

- Rigidity of thought and behaviour, and limited imagination or imaginative play, where the individual may carry out ritualistic actions, or focus upon minor details (such as an item of clothing rather than the person, or part of a toy rather than the whole thing).

- Limited verbal and non-verbal communication with a lack of true two-way conversational skills, a failure to understand the emotions, gestures, or ideas of others, and an over-literalness in interpreting what is said.

- Difficulty with social relationships, with an appearance of aloofness or indifference, and with inappropriate or repetitive styles of approach if contact is initiated.


Asperger's Syndrome has been viewed either as a less severe form of autism, or as a separate condition in its own right, but is unarguably part of the autistic continuum. The characteristic signs and behaviours include:

- marked and sustained impairment in social interaction.

- restrictive and repetitive patterns of behaviour and activities, and a strong preference for routines and avoidance of change.

- motor delays or clumsiness are also commonly associated with Asperger syndrome.

However, compared to autism, individuals with Asperger syndrome have relatively good expressive language, may have cognitive scores which fall in the average or above-average ranges, and rarely experience additional learning difficulties. As a result diagnosis may be delayed until the difficulties in social relationships and interaction become evident. Diagnosis therefore commonly does not occur until after the age of five.

The 'autistic continuum / spectrum'. The concept of a 'continuum' of autistic disorders (or 'autistic spectrum') highlights the range in terms of number or severity of symptoms that individuals may experience. At one extreme, there are children who require very specialist care and provision which will necessarily continue into adulthood. At the other extreme, there are children who can successfully and meaningfully be included within a mainstream school. This highlights the importance of individual assessment and intervention planning, and the need to avoid making assumptions or generalisations about the behaviours, skills, and prognoses of individuals who share the autism or Asperger diagnosis.

Related resources:
Pervasive Developmental Disorders
The Autism Society of America

2 comments:

mcewen said...

Yup we need to concentrate on the 'individual' in the IEP.
Best wishes

Gibo said...

i am a father of a 4 year old who has autism. i am happy to have found your website and intend to learn from it. thanks.

Promethean Planet

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