Can autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and high-functioning autism be clearly differentiated?

10 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Hello Steve again,

    Thank you for your question. It's a good question, the answer of which is not clear-cut. It depends on two main factors:-

    1) The age of the person that is to be diagnosed,

    2) The qualification of the person who is making the observation.

    ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) is a *very* wide spectrum and people with autism may be mildly or severely affected depending on where in the continuum their conditions lie.

    In many individuals especially kids with autism, their conditions *change* over time, depending on the following:-

    a) Natural developmental growth over time,

    b) Exposure to appropriate education, early intervention and training,

    c) Emotional care and other support from family and the local community.

    Say for an example, Mr. Y was diagnosed with "low-functioning" autism in 1997 when he was non-verbal.

    Over time, his social and verbal skills changed drastically, so in 2007 his condition now would fall into "high-functioning" end of the continuum. Alternatively, Ms Z has lost a number of previously acquired skills. She regressed over time and now her condition lies at a lower point on the spectrum.

    Hope it's a little clearer.

    Now, 2) The qualification of the person who is making the observation.

    Needless to say, professionals who are experts in this area would be able to diagnose people with the conditions you mentioned. B-U-T, as for the general public, it is not easy at all to make the differentiation, especially between HFA (High-functioning Autism) and AS (Asperger's Syndrome). There lies a very fine line between them.

    If you are looking for the actual *definitions* of those conditions, please browse through the resources I listed at the very bottom. To be very brief, the major difference between HFA and AS is that people with AS did *not* have any developmental delay in LANGUAGE skills when they were kids, but people with HFA *had* this delay when they were kids. As for the difference between "low" and "high" functioning autism, the people with lower than an IQ score of 70 are on the lower end of the spectrum, and those with an IQ score of 70 or more are one the higher end of the spectrum. Approx. 75% of the individuals on the ASD have an IQ which would be lower than 70. 25% of the people on the ASD have an IQ of 70 or more, some of them are on the genius mark. So, LFA and HFA are to do with the IQ really. A person with HFA could very well be *severely* affected with sensory stimuli.

    Hope this helps.


    Source(s): Autism, Asperger's syndrome and semantic-pragmatic disorder: Where are the boundaries? [Good article with easy-to-understand chart]:-
  • Junie
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    I would call it "autism" when there are delays in speech or other cognitive functioning, like my son. I would call Asperger's the same thing, pretty much, as HFA, with no real language delays as a child. HFA means that an Autistic kid has grown up and is able to hide it pretty well. Basically, if a person can be misdiagnosed easily, or diagnosed as late as 7 years old, it's Asperger's. If it's obvious that there is something funny going on with your toddler, it's "regular" autism.

    I should note that, although my autistic son might have a few favorite phrases or noises he likes to repeat, I have seen my Aspie husband doing the same thing. Only, my husband can *keep* from doing it if he has to, and knows when those times are. My son has a lot of trouble controlling himself with that, and wouldn't know when he should or should not do the verbal stims. So the terms are also clearly a matter of degree.

    Source(s): Wife to an Aspie, mom to an Autie
  • 1 decade ago

    My son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) at the age of three. With early intervention, a special preschool program, and a kindergarten program that focuses on social skills, my son, now six years old, was recently rediagnosed High Functioning Autistic.

    Our doctor explained to us that the reason he was not given the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome was due to the speech delay he had when he was younger.

    With that said, I don't think that it would be clearly differentiated unless you knew that the person had a speech delay when he/she was a young child. Now if the child, had moderate or severe autism, I think that could easily be differentiated in comparison to those that were high functioning or had Asperger's.

    Source(s): Mother of an autistic child
  • 1 decade ago

    High functioning autism is usually where the child is verbal and can try to be social. May not always succeed but does make the attempt. The difference per the DSM-IV TR between HFA and Aspergers is that in Aspergers there isnt a speech delay at any point in development. With this definition my son will always be labeled HFA because he had a speec delay of almost 2 years at one point.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    Profound autism can be differentiated from the other two from language, social interaction, and long-term development. Many people with low functioning autism are mute. Tony Atwood says that children who were diagnosed with more classical autism in childhood but moved up are more likely to be diagnosed with high functiong autism. However, he also claims that A.S. and high functiong autism are more alike than different.

    Source(s): Asperger's Syndrome A Guide for Parent and Proffesionals
  • 1 decade ago

    There are many symptoms that can "fit" into all the categories. I guess if you are in the medical profession, you know where that line is and what to look for but for those of us that aren't doctors, it makes it hard to differentiate because all three are so closely related. I'm sure that there are distinguishing attributes for each one....but I have found that most books and reports that I have read don't necessarily mention them. There are a lot of "may haves"........

    Source(s): worker/developmentally challenged people
  • 1 decade ago

    This is a very good question, and the answer is unclear because at this point, the diagnostic criteria are not always precise. Having said that:

    1) Classic autism usually comprises deficits/delays in three areas: communication (language), social interaction and repetitive behavior. Children with classic autism show language delays e.g. no single words by age two and no phrases by age three. In the past, about 75% of individuals with autism also scored in the range of mental retardation on standardized IQ tests.

    2) High-functioning autism refers to individuals who show impairment in all three areas BUT do not score in the range of mental retardation on IQ tests. How is this possible? IQ tests are typically divided into verbal vs. nonverbal tasks. Therefore, they may have severe language difficulties, but may score very well (in the "normal" range or above) on nonverbal tasks, such as puzzles. Someone like Charlie Babbit in the movie, "Rain Man," would be considered a high-functioning autistic individual.

    3) Individuals with Asperger's Disorder show impairment in the areas of social interaction and repetitive behaviors (which includes obsessive interests). Theoretically, they showed no language delay as toddlers e.g. they used single words by age two and phrases by age three. However, their language as adults may be "odd," such as they might have trouble with "small talk" or carrying on a reciprocal conversation. In general, their scores fall into the low average, average and above average ranges on an IQ test.

    4) Individuals with Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) show difficulties similar to autism, but their behaviors do not meet the full critieria, such as they are not frequent or severe enough. However, they are considered different than people with Asperger's because they showed language delays as toddlers.

    In "real life," the diagnostic criteria are somewhat "fluidly" applied. This is because as children develop, they may progress, and move from one diagnostic category to another (e.g. meeting criteria for autism at age three, but PDD-NOS at age seven). Plus, psychologists (and other professionals) may not always apply the criteria in the same way because they simply don't have the experience working with autistic individuals. AND, kids (and people) who fall on the spectrum are highly variable from one another. FINALLY, many people attach stigma to diagnoses, and they are seen as negative labels. In my opinion, the key is to view all individuals as individuals with strengths and weaknesses (like all of us) - diagnoses are only "keys" to open doors so that people can receive the help that they need to improve.

    Source(s): Lic. Psychologist who works in the area of autism spectrum disorders
  • 1 decade ago

    It can be difficult, especially if you're not familiar with the mental disorders and their characteristics, and especially since sometimes the symptoms of the disease really do overlap. However, there are different symptoms that, if you know what to look for, can help you to tell them apart.

    Regular autism is characterized with severe mental retardation, inability to speak and complete inability to deal with irritating sensations around them. This is of course the most severe form of the disease, and I am less acquainted with this form of the disease than high-functioning autism so forgive me if this is somewhat less than informative.

    High-functioning autism differs from Asperger's Syndrome in that the people who have it have IQ levels that are average or slightly below average, but they have roughly the same capacity in all of their learning abilities. Like people with Asperger's Syndrome they have difficulties learning how to socialize and often have obsessive interests, but they tend to be of more general, more primitive focus than people with Asperger's Syndrome (for example, a person with high-functioning autism will develop a fascination with cars in general while a person with Asperger's Syndrome will obsessively learn about a brand, specific function, or part of car.)

    People with Asperger's Syndrome are slightly different than people with high-functioning autism. "Aspies" generally have average to above-average intelligence, some even rating as genuises in some areas, but they often have severe learning disabilities in other areas (for instance, being good in English or music but only having a basic capacity to understand math, or vice versa) and trust me, that does show. They have the same difficulties in socializing, but their increased intelligence can cope for that somewhat. Their obsessive interests are there, but tend to be caught up in abstract ideas such as TV series, the contents of a book, or video games, particularly sci-fi ones such as Star Wars or Star Trek, for example. They can appear very similar to "nerds" and in fact, some people theorize that all "nerdy" people have mild cases of Asperger's syndrome. This has not been verified, though.

    Hope it helps.

  • 1 decade ago

    To Isis-sama, your first responder, "regular" autism (whatever that is) is NOT characterized by "severe mental retardation."

    Otherwise you received some outstanding answers that I can't add much more to.

    Source(s): Autism Parent Consultant & Mother of an Autist
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    they are so many levels that when working with each person theere is a differnt program for each. to an extent they can be differnt but in some cases it is not clear.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.