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Autism or Asperger's - Confused?

By Rachel Evans

One of the most often asked questions so far seems to be about the difference between Autism and Aspergers so I thought I’d start with a brief explanation of the two conditions and what the main differences are.


Autism is a spectrum disorder - which basically means that the signs and the severity of symptoms can vary significantly in each person. It usually begins at an early age (before 3) and causes delays to the normal development of skills.

The main areas in which autism symptoms can be seen are:

Communication - both verbal and non-verbal, such as eye contact, facial expressions and body language.

Social Behaviors - people with autism struggle with expressing emotions, relating to other peoples emotions and holding conversations. They have a tendency to withdraw from social interaction and can over-react to what we would consider a normal situation.

General Behaviors- repetition of actions, phrases and routines are common as are following strict organization patterns.
Autistics can also display abnormal sensory perception. For example, a normal volume noise may seem extremely loud and even painful to an autistic.

Physical interaction can also cause problems for an autistic child, they may dislike the feeling of being touched or will only allow themselves to be hugged in a certain way.

Autistic children also tend to favor rigid objects and toys such as metal cars rather than soft toys like teddy bears, some even show pain from touching a stuffed animal.
Smells may also cause problems with scents that are pleasant to you and I causing those with autism to gag.

It is not true that all autistics show retardation.


People with Asperger’s Syndrome display autistic characteristics like obsessive behaviors or lack of social and communication skills. And like autism, the level and severity of these signs will vary from person to person.

They do not show delayed skills. In fact, one of the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome is having a normal IQ. As a result, those with Asperger’s are sometimes called “higher-functioning” autistics.

Aspergers is also usually noticed at a later age, with social and communication problems less severe than with autism. Verbal IQ tends to be higher than physical IQ and clumsiness is more common.

People with Asperger’s Syndrome usually have good language skills - However, their use of language can be awkward and speech patterns can be unusual, without inflection or changes in pitch or tone.

The subtleties of language, such as irony and humor can be lost on someone with Asperger’s and they may struggle to understand how a conversation should flow.

It is hard to generalize ASD’s, but two main differences between Autism and Asperger’s seem to be:

1. People with Aspergers tend to have a normal or sometimes a high IQ.
2. There is no speech delay in people with Asperger’s.

I hope that this helps with understanding the difference between these two ASD’s

Author - Rachel Evans
The Essential Guide to Autism

Note from Jean

The difference was once explained to me like this.

Asperger's desperately want to fit in and be accepted. They like people and want to be with them but find relationships difficult. Autists simply don't care.

If you were to take the two groups to a zoo and ask them to recall their experience by way of a drawing the Asperger's group would draw animals and people but those with autism would draw straight paths and cages with straight bars.

Another Note from Jean

read this book - Freaks, Geeks and Asperger’s Syndrome if you have any interest at all in Asperger's.  It's published by the same company that published my book and it’s brilliant!

"My name is Charlie"

My name is Charlie; I'm different to you
I don't see the world the same as you do.
You see a classroom and I see a chair
I don't always notice what else is in there.

Too much information keeps coming my way
It's so hard to cope with, day after day.
You show me so much that I don't always see
One step at a time is the best thing for me.

Bright lights and loud noises upset me so much
An unusual smell, or somebody's touch.
When you look in my eyes and I'm looking away
I'm not being rude if I don't hear what you say.

I'm not being awkward; I'm just doing my best
I'm striving so hard to be just like the rest.
The times when you think I've not really tried
If only you knew how that hurts me inside.

I want you to like me the way I like you
If only you saw things from my point of view.
Your life and my life both run parallel
Yours seems like heaven, mine's sometimes hell.

Whenever you're frustrated at the things that I do
You could have been me
And I could have been you.

© B.J. Webb. 2007

(about his grandson, who has Asperger's syndrome)