Asperger vs Autism

Are autism and asperger’s the same?

Before 2013, Asperger’s syndrome and autism were considered separate neurodevelopmental conditions. Today, they form part of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to the latest diagnostic manual, known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

What is Autism?

Autism impairs behaviour and social communication in individuals which makes interactions with their peers extremely difficult. People who are autistic may have set ways of thinking, learning or solving problems. Intellectually, they may present on a range from gifted to severely challenged. Some persons may have a few symptoms; others may have many symptoms, a few may be able to hide their symptoms.

Common signs of autism

  • Failing to respond to their name
  • Misunderstanding facial expressions
  • Avoiding eye contact when being spoken to
  • Refusal to share or take turns
  • Looking elsewhere when objects are being shown to them
  • Repeating phrases or words
  • Repetitive movements
  • Difficulty in expressing oneself
  • Prefers to play alone
  • Inability to play pretend games
  • Hypersensitivity to smell, sight, sound, taste or touch
  • Delayed language and speech skills
  • Speaking in monosyllables
  • Difficulty reading social cues and body language
  • Difficulty forming relationships

What is Asperger’s?

Asperger’s was first coined by a paediatrician named Hans Aspeger in 1944. He observed certain traits in children who were of normal intelligence and language development but had social difficulties just like in autistic children. Their symptoms were related to behaviour and social communication which stem from brain dysregulation. They were also similar to but less severe to pass for autism.

Common signs of Asperger’s

  • Repetitive behaviours
  • Limited interests
  • Impaired social interaction
  • Non verbal communication
  • Lack of awareness of social cues

In 1994, Asperger’s was included in DSM-4 as a separate disorder from other neurodevelopmental disorders. In 2013 however, the diagnosis was removed and placed under the autism spectrum disorder.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

ASD represents a range of neurodevelopmental disorders which present as persistent problems with behaviour and communication. In 2013, four different conditions were merged into the DSM-5 classification. These conditions are:

  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Autism
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD)
  • Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)

According to DSM-5 criteria, by age 2, a person must show some of the following signs to qualify for an ASD diagnosis:

  • Repetitive movements eg repetitive eye blinking
  • Focused interest in specific activities or topics
  • Set routines
  • Difficulty participating in conversations
  • Differences in sensory processing
  • Differences in nonverbal communication
  • Difficulty understanding social cues

Autism vs Asperger’s

Autism and Asperger’s are both neurodevelopmental disorders which pose challenges to communication and social interactions. Currently, they form part of the ASD continuum and are no longer seen as separate diagnoses.

People with Asperger’s are considered high functioning which means they have no delays in cognitive and language functions. Infact, they may have advanced language and speech skills. They have a greater chance of being diagnosed later on in life and may not need any support.

Most autistic children receive a diagnosis before age 2. They are more likely to have delays in cognitive, language and social developments. Additionally they may require therapy and support.

In general Asperger’s represents a milder form of ASD while autism falls within the more severe end of the spectrum.


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Difference Between Autism and Aspergers Syndrome. (n.d.). Autism SA.

Jewell, T. (2020, April 16). Asperger’s vs. Autism: What’s the Difference? Healthline.

What Exactly Is the Difference Between Asperger’s and Autism? (2021, March 31). Psych Central.

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