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What’s the Difference Between Aspergers vs Autism?

As someone who works closely with children on the autism spectrum, I understand how confusing it can be to navigate the differences between Aspergers vs Autism. With 1 in 54 children in the U.S. diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it’s essential for parents to recognize the unique traits of these conditions. In this blog post, I’ll share insights on the distinct characteristics of Asperger’s and Autism, provide tips on how to support your kids effectively, and celebrate their individuality.

Understanding the Spectrum: Aspergers vs. Autism

First, let’s clarify that both Aspergers and Autism are part of the broader Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism into a single category named ASD. However, many people still use the term “Aspergers” to describe a specific set of characteristics within the spectrum.

Here’s a comparison to help you understand the differences between Aspergers and Autism:

Usually has milder symptomsCan have a range of mild to severe symptoms
Often has average or above-average intelligenceIntelligence can differ greatly, from high intelligence to intellectual disability
Less likely to have trouble with languageMay have significant issues with language and communication
May struggle with social skills and understanding social cuesOften has difficulty with social interactions, understanding social cues, and forming relationships
May have strong interests in specific subjectsMay also have strong interests but can be more varied in focus

Spotting the Signs: Key Features of Aspergers and Autism

Aspergers and Autism share some common traits, but they also have unique features that can help you identify each condition. Let’s look at some of their key characteristics, starting with Aspergers:

Aspergers Features

  • Social difficulties: Kids with Aspergers may have trouble making friends, understanding social rules, and reading nonverbal communication.
  • Intense interests: They may be very interested in specific subjects and spend lots of time learning about them.
  • Routine and structure: A strong preference for routines and order is common, and they may become upset when routines change.
  • Sensitivity to sensory stimuli: Some kids with Aspergers may be very sensitive to things like bright lights, loud noises, or certain textures.
aspergers vs autism little girl and boy in garden
Read more: Aspergers Test for Kids

Now, let’s examine some of the key features of Autism:

Autism Features

  • Communication challenges: Kids with autism may have a hard time with verbal and nonverbal communication, like understanding and using spoken language, gestures, and facial expressions.
  • Repetitive behaviors: They may do repetitive actions, such as hand flapping, rocking, or lining up objects.
  • Restricted interests: Like those with Aspergers, kids with autism may have strong interests or fixations, although these can be more varied in focus.
  • Sensory issues: Sensory sensitivities are also common among kids with autism, which can make them either very sensitive or under-responsive to sensory inputs.

Helping Your Neurodivergent Kids: Tips for Success

Knowing the differences between Aspergers vs Autism is just the start. As a parent, it’s important to learn how to help your neurodivergent kids and support their growth. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Early Intervention

Getting help early can make a big difference for your child. This help may include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, social skills training, or behavioral therapy.

Aspergers vs autism little boy in bed
Read more: What is Non-speaking Autism?

Research shows that early intervention can improve language, social skills, and behavior in kids with ASD. The sooner you start, the better the outcomes are likely to be.

2. Create a Structured Environment

Kids with Aspergers and autism often do better with clear routines and consistency. Visual schedules, social stories, and clear expectations can help provide stability and predictability.

A structured environment can also reduce anxiety and help kids feel more comfortable. For example, you might create a visual schedule that shows the daily routine, use timers to signal transitions, or establish clear rules for behavior.

3. Build Social Skills

Encourage your child to join social activities and practice their social skills. This might look like playdates, after-school activities, or joining support groups for kids with similar challenges.

Practicing social skills can help kids with Aspergers and autism develop friendships, improve their communication, and increase their self-confidence. You might also consider enrolling your child in social skills training or a social skills group led by a professional.

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4. Support Sensory Needs

Pay attention to your child’s sensory sensitivities and create a sensory-friendly environment. This might involve using noise-cancelling headphones, weighted blankets, or providing fidget tools for self-regulation.

By creating a sensory-friendly space, you can help your child feel more comfortable and reduce meltdowns or other challenging behaviors. It’s essential to work with your child to understand their unique sensory needs and make necessary adjustments.

5. Celebrate Their Strengths

Lastly, remember to celebrate your child’s unique strengths and interests. Encourage them to explore their passions and show off their talents, building confidence and a feeling of achievement.

By focusing on their strengths, you can help your child develop a positive self-image and a sense of pride in their abilities. This can also serve as a foundation for building skills in other areas of their life.

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Aspergers vs Autism: Embracing Your Child’s Uniqueness

While understanding the differences between Aspergers vs Autism is vital for providing the right support, it’s equally important to remember that each child is unique. Their strengths, challenges, and personalities will shape their individual journey. As a parent, your job is to embrace their uniqueness, provide tailored support, and celebrate their successes along the way. With love, patience, and understanding, you can help your neurodivergent kids reach their full potential.

FAQ’s About Aspergers vs Autism

What is the difference between Asperger's and autism?  
Asperger's is often considered a milder form of autism with fewer language delays and cognitive difficulties.

Can someone have both Asperger's and autism?
No, Asperger's is a subtype of autism spectrum disorder, so they are not separate diagnoses.

Are social challenges the same in Asperger's and autism?
Yes, both Asperger's and autism involve social challenges, but they may vary in severity.

How are Asperger's and autism diagnosed?
Both Asperger's and autism are diagnosed through behavioral evaluations and developmental history assessments.

Can therapy help individuals with Asperger's and autism?
Yes, therapy can help individuals with both Asperger's and autism by improving communication, social skills, and behavior management.

This post was originally published on 04/22/2023. It was updated on 07/08/2024.

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