Autism vs. Asperger’s

Ok, this isn’t super relevant in the US anymore since we’ve moved to the DSM 5 and the two have been merged together into Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, there are still places in the world that use the DSM IV, and I still see people talking about it, so I’m putting this here. People seem to like to say that the only difference in the diagnostic criteria between autism and asperger’s is language delay.


First of all, here is a handy-dandy chart showing the differences and similarities side by side.

And in longhand format…

The criteria of autism but not asperger’s:

(B) qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:

1. delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)

2. in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others

3. stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language

4. lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level

(II) Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years:

(A) social interaction

(B) language as used in social communication

(C) symbolic or imaginative play

(III) The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett’s Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

The criteria of asperger’s but not autism:

(III) The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

(IV) There is no clinically significant general delay in language (E.G. single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)

(V) There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

(VI) Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.

The criteria in both:

(I) Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(A) marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction

(B) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

(C) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people, (e.g.. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)

(D) lack of social or emotional reciprocity

(II) Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(A) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus

(B) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

(C) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms

(D) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

4 responses to “Autism vs. Asperger’s

  1. iwaswrite

    I’m newly diagnosed at 56 and am amazed to find I am not alone. I “present well,” but have all the mental processing / OCDish / Anxiety issues and concerns. For years I wondered what was “wrong” with me, because I knew that I processed things different than others — now I’m finding I’m not alone! I started a blog, too! Thank you for being here.

  2. justmereally

    Heh. Must be #4 in my case:
    4. lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level

    As well as (II)-A:
    (II) Delays or abnormal functioning in (…)
    — (A) social interaction

    “with onset prior to age 3 years”

    Right!! I was diagnosed with traits of autism when I was about 3 years old. But that must _never_ be confused with a “true” autist! You wouldn’t detect my so-called “autism” in my adult life any more. They simply found it autistic that I liked to occupy myself with jigsaw puzzles in pre-school and hardly ever wanted to team up with others.
    Oh, and maybe also because I always looked away in conversations.
    I tell you what: I DID TRAIN IT. Because looking past people’s faces in conversations _constantly_ would immediately give them the impression of something being “wrong” respectively “abnormal” with me. And no, that’d be nothing to these nosy folks, even if. 😛

  3. Mary

    Thank you for your blog – it has been helpful to me. I have only recently realized that I have a lot of Asperger’s traits (at age 50), and your list of the distinctions from Autism is helpful.

  4. Pingback: Finally, a community of like-minded females who get it! – Exploring Autism Spectrum as an older female

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s