Life on the Spectrum

Often when I tell a person that I am autistic, they immediately ask if I have Asperger’s. Sometimes people tell me that I am not really autistic; I merely have Asperger’s.

One of the most common questions on the various autism or Asperger groups I belong to on Facebook is: “What’s the difference between autism and Asperger’s Syndrome? Is there a difference?” I would say that on paper, there is a difference; in reality, not so much.

On paper, before the changes in the latest edition of the DSM, the difference between autism and Asperger’s was speech. People who had delayed speech in childhood were usually diagnosed autistic; those who had normal or early speech were usually diagnosed Asperger. I say “usually” because this is not always the case. I know one person who had early speech in childhood who was diagnosed with autism. She is very defensive about this because most people assume she has Asperger’s (I imagine these are the people who see autism as requiring some sort of intellectual disability) and may even argue with her about it. I also know one woman who was convinced she had Asperger’s and who was given a diagnosis of autism.

This is one of the reasons I say that in reality, there is no difference between autism and Asperger’s. When I was first diagnosed with Asperger’s, I sought out online support groups because, at the time, I didn’t know any other Aspies in real life. I found most groups had a mixture of those diagnosed autistic and those diagnosed Asperger’s, and while there were, of course, differences among people (because no two people are exactly alike), there were no significant differences between those with one diagnosis and those with the other diagnosis. I also found I had just as much in common with those diagnosed autistic as I did with my fellow Aspergians.

Many people were concerned about losing their diagnosis of Asperger’s when the DSM folded it into autism spectrum disorder. I personally prefer not having a distinction between the two, because Asperger’s has always been considered to be a condition on the autism spectrum. Some people do not consider Asperger’s to be the same as autism and have even argued for it to be a distinct diagnosis, but seeing all that I have in common with people with the autism diagnosis, and knowing that my friend who showed what are normally considered symptoms of Asperger’s was diagnosed with autism, is enough to convince me that Asperger’s and autism are really not different at all.

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Comments on: "Is There a Difference Between Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome?" (1)

  1. I saw this come up on a Facebook group recently. Someone was writing that she had been posting on a different group that wasn’t about autism, and she had referred to herself as having autism and having Aspergers at two different parts of her post. Someone had replied, “You can’t have both Aspergers and autism.” The person tried to explain that Aspergers was a type of autism, and so she did have both, but the other person just kept repeating that Aspergers and autism were different. To me, I feel like autism is a color (say, purple) and Aspergers is a shade of that color (like, lavender.)
    I have also heard of kids who were diagnosed with autism when they were little, but as they got older and went through all sorts of therapies and junk, they “improved” enough that they got a new diagnosis of Aspergers, and their parents hoped they would eventually “improve” enough to not need a diagnosis at all. THAT confuses me!

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