What is the name of this pervasive developmental disorder? Is it Autism Aspergers? Aspergers Autism? Aspergers? Aspergers Syndrome? What is it called and are Aspergers and Autism the same thing?
The correct name is Asperger's Syndrome, but people are talking about it so much now that it's most often written Aspergers Syndrome or Aspergers for short. Nicknames include Aspergians and Aspies.
Are Aspergers and Autism the same thing? No.
Is Aspergers a form of Autism? Yes.
Okay, here's the deal. Aspergers Syndrome is one of the types of Autism. But Autism is actually a spectrum--Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD.
There are people with severe Autism (the DSM 5* calls this Severity Level 3). There are people with high-functioning Autism (The DSM 5 calls this Severity Level 1). And there are people somewhere in the middle (Severity Level 2).
*DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association and used by professionals to diagnose mental health conditions. The manual not only affects decisions that doctors make but also what the insurance companies will cover. The DSM 4 is the recently retired manual. You can learn more about it on the DSM 4 page.
DSM 5 was just published.
NOTE: Tony Attwood, the current researcher of Aspergers Syndrome, does not agree with the elimination of Aspergers Syndrome from the manual.
Read more on the DSM 4 page, the DSM 5 page, and the ICD 10 page.
When someone talks about Autism they usually describe people who are severely Autistic or in the middle of the spectrum. But Aspergers Syndrome is on the very high end of the spectrum.
High Functioning Autism and Aspergers are often used interchangeably. You can read a statement about these two terms on the High Functioning Autism page.
The DSM 4, which is the current* guide for medical professionals in the USA, distinguishes between Aspergers and Autism. Here's how to tell the difference.
Someone with Aspergers Syndrome will typically talk to you about his favorite topic ad nauseam (that is, until you are nauseous, not him!). He would have a one-sided conversation.
However, someone with Autism would be indifferent to having any conversation.
Someone with Aspergers Syndrome does not have significant delays in cognitive development, but someone with Autism might.
Well, at least it appears that people in the middle or severe end of the Spectrum have a delay in intelligence or are mentally handicapped. But with all the new assistive technologies, educators and researchers are realizing that severely Autistic people have a lot to say but need help saying it. (To read a news story about this, go to CBS for "Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad.")
In our case, I could tell that my son who has Aspergers (whom we call Trio Man) had something to say but didn't know how to say it. This could be described as an impairment in how to use language or it could be described as "slow processing."
When Trio Man was 2, the conversation at the dinner table usually had his dad asking questions, Trio Man thinking about how to answer, and then me whispering words in Trio Man's ear. We could see that the wheels were turning in Trio Man's head, but he didn't know what to say.
Trio Man would then usually say the words that I gave him to his dad as if he were testing to see if those were the right words. Sometimes, Trio Man wouldn't use my words to answer his dad.
So then I would whisper different words into his ear and he would repeat those words instead. It was if he knew the first set of words that I offered weren't what he wanted to say, but the second set was.
Researchers do not agree about whether children with Aspergers have a delay in early language or not. And it turns out that I have so much say about this topic that it was worth writing a whole new page, which you'll find at Significant Delay in Early Language.