Although many experts disagree about a precise definition, the difference between autism and Asperger's syndrome seems to be a matter of severity and is tied to communication issues. Autism is known as a "spectrum" illness, as it has a wide variety of symptoms and associated conditions, the most common elements involve poor or impaired social skills, a very narrow interest range and sensory problems.
Autistic patients exhibit very rigid behavior with limited imagination. Autism is also characterized by limited verbal and non-verbal communication skills and difficulty in understanding or comprehending typical social relationships. When faced with social interaction, for example, they may appear to be indifferent or will implement repetitive functions or comments as a response mechanism. Their listening skills are usually poor.
Asperger's syndrome is basically a less severe form of autism. While the characteristics of the base illness remain, individuals with Asperger's syndrome seem to be relatively good at expressing themselves, can have average or above-average IQ and will not always experience or display learning difficulties. As a result, it is often not possible to diagnose the syndrome until after the child is at least five years old. You may notice subtle signs, however, such as the tantrums daily routine, which is often a way for the Asperger's child to exhibit serious frustration and can be far more noticeable and severe than if it were exhibited by a healthy child.
Whereas children with autism suffer from intense communication difficulties, those with Asperger's syndrome are much better at speaking, but will find it difficult to skillfully exhibit their abilities in a social situation, play and physical activity.
Some experts define Asperger's syndrome as simply autism with a functioning language, whilst others believe that they are two distinct issues. Autism, they say, is a left brain illness, whilst Aspergers is an affliction of the right brain. It may be possible to help differentiate between the two by observing early communication skills. For example, monitor your child's development each year and see whether he or she has the correct range of language at that age.
An Asperger child often becomes obsessed with things, and this can range from statistics to obscure or little known facts. As this obsessive behavior can sometimes take over control, it can lead to impaired development within the social arena. Many experts believe that children with autism can improve and take on the characteristics of children with Asperger's syndrome and become virtually indistinguishable in comparison.
It is very important to conduct individual assessments and correctly diagnose your toddler, as there's a very wide range of individual disorders within the overall spectrum. Some children might require very specialist care for extended periods of time, whilst others may successfully be integrated within a mainstream school. The debate will no doubt continue as experts try to more fully define the difference between autism and Asperger's syndrome.
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