What is the difference between Asperger’s disease and autism? Although it is usually difficult to distinguish both neurodevelopmental conditions, there are several symptoms that are believed to draw a clear line between them. Before jumping into the core of the discussion, let’s attempt to review the illustration below.
Months after your son is born, you may feel relieved when your toddler finally says his first word. You are relieved not only because the happy moment of hearing his first word finally arrives, but also because your baby is not among those who are diagnosed with autism. Autism has indeed become a growing concern lately with the number of babies born with autism continuously increasing every year. It is so worrisome that many parents start to worry about their children’s developmental condition if the latter have not said any word in their first birthday. So when your toddler finally utters his first word, we can imagine how great the happiness that you feel.
Months passes after you hear that relieving first word and your child seems to enjoy his new life in his playground or school. He appears to be so smart and talkative that you totally believe that your child, with his smartness, is a gifted one. But then you suddenly see that your child is not getting along well with his peers. He prefers to focus on playing puzzles over an unusually long time rather than play with his mates. Sometimes he may leave his puzzles and try to join his equals, but when that happens, the way he communicates and socializes with his peers seems so awkward that there appears to be no cohesion in the party. Something must have been wrong with his social capacity. Something must have been wrong with his development.
The illustration above shows that the already worrisome autism is not the only developmental problem that parents should beware. Children may escape from the most severe case of autism; however, as there are numerous disorders in the autism spectrum, there are other neurodevelopmental perils that children may fall into. In the illustration above, your child may have escaped from the debilitating case of severe autism, but his social deficits may signify that he must have suffered from a milder case of autism. If you take him to a medical specialist, an official diagnosis later will likely show that your child is diagnosed with a developmental problem called Asperger’s disease.
What Is Asperger’s Disease?
Asperger’s disease or Asperger’s disorder is a milder form of autism. It is named after Hans Asperger, an Austrian psychiatrist who first described its symptoms in 1944. Asperger’s disease is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication. Children with Asperger’s disease rarely show verbal communication and intelligence problem typical of autism. In fact, they are often quite able to talk verbosely although they may not know how to use words in the right context properly. Many children with Asperger’s disease are also known to grow up as overachievers.
The biggest problem that children with Asperger’s disease face lies in the way they communicate verbally and interact socially with others. They often find it hard to get involved in general communication with their peers and are often interested only on a very specific topic that they are fond of. They will talk profusely about, for example, dinosaurs or cartoon characters yet cannot involve themselves in discussions about broader contexts. Their social capacity is also weakened to the extent that they know almost nothing about empathy, they often skip appointments without feeling guilty, and they are rarely able to make an intimate social relationship with their equals.
How Does Asperger’s Disease Differ from Autism?
When you are relieved to hear your son’s first word, you should already be aware of the notorious symptoms of autism. Autism is indeed characterized by serious difficulties in interacting and communicating with other people. If your child still doesn’t utter his first word beyond the normal talking age, you may start to think that he may be autistic. Children with the most severe case of autism tend to be unable to perform both verbal and nonverbal communication, to be intensely interested on one particular thing or topic, and to constantly repeat certain behaviors or actions.
When you finally hear the first word, you mostly feel overjoyed as the notorious disorder you worry the most has just passed. However, it is important to know that there are autistic children who actually have normal capability to perform verbal communication, though they still show some common symptoms of autism, especially intense interest restricted to only particular topics or objects. Children with Asperger’s disease still have interest in getting along socially with others, but when they try to mingle with their peers, they find it difficult to establish a cohesive social interaction with them. The presence of verbal communication capability on children with Asperger’s disease is thus the most decisive factor that distinguishes them from children with more severe case of autism.
Why are children with Asperger’s disease also called autistic? Within the broad spectrum of autism, there are numerous neurodevelopmental disorders that used to be treated as separate disorders but now are classified as a single disorder with varying levels of severity. Autism spectrum disorders now include problems including autism as the most severe case, childhood disintegrative disorder, and Asperger’s disease among the milder cases of autism. While some publications still mention Asperger’s disease as a separate disorder, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version 5 (DSM-5) that was released on May 2013 affirmed that Asperger’s disease was one milder case of autism.
What If Your Children Is Diagnosed with Asperger’s Disease?
Asperger’s disease cannot be cured and will last for a lifetime, but this condition is not debilitating and not the end of your child’s life. As a parent, you can still provide support to your beloved one by getting helps from professionals who are familiar with autism spectrum disorder, seeking out other families of children with similar disorder, keeping updated with the latest therapies, accepting your child’s condition wholeheartedly, and thinking positively about him. With continuous support, children with autism and Asperger’s disease can still achieve success in their life. So think about the best support that you will give to your child after you figure out what is the difference between Asperger’s disease and autism.