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The Layman’s Guide to Autism: What is the difference between Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism?

Posted on April 29, 2019 by Ann

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At All In, we sometimes get interesting questions from the general public, like “Do people with autism understand sarcasm?” and “How can I tell if someone has cerebral palsy or autism?”

The Layman’s Guide to Autism are simplified answers to these real questions from laymen


Today, we will be answering this question from our friend, Rambo:

What is the difference between autism and Asperger’s syndrome?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a broad range of conditions related to social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. There is a wide variety of symptoms, which is why it’s called a spectrum.

In general, ASD’s core symptoms are:

  1. social communication challenges; and
  2. restricted, repetitive behaviours.

Asperger’s syndrome used to be considered a condition on its own but since 2013, the American Psychiatric Association has subsumed Asperger’s syndrome under ASD as a milder form of autism.

What is the difference between Asperger’s syndrome and other forms of autism?

Each person with ASD exists on a spectrum and there is a broad range of symptoms with different levels of severity for each symptom. The best way to figure out the difference is to get a proper diagnosis.

For the layman, here is a very generalized cheat sheet outlining the differences between Asperger’s syndrome and other forms of autism:

What if I am meeting someone for the first time? How would I know if that person has Asperger’s syndrome or other forms of autism?

You can’t tell if someone has ASD just by looking at them. Instead, you have to observe his or her behaviour.

Sometimes a person may show obvious signs of autism.

But sometimes, because of the broad spectrum, even a trained professional might not be able to tell if someone has ASD without using diagnostic tools, especially for milder cases or high ability cases.

Because this is a layman’s guide, here is another cheat sheet with the common symptoms:

Remember, this is just generalised information and there are exceptions to everything.

Just because a person shows some signs doesn’t mean they have ASD. For example, they may just be very shy.

Conversely, just because a person doesn’t show any signs, doesn’t mean they don’t have autism. For example, some people with autism do understand sarcasm and use them. Some may be very extroverted. Some have learnt to interpret non-verbal communication and can use them.

So what we are saying is, just don’t be too hasty to judge and label people. (Examples of what not to do can be found in this article.)

Unlike a person with ASD, you are blessed with empathy and social interaction comes easily to you. So please do be kind and patient if you sense that the person you are interacting with is unconventional or different. 🙂


Read more

What should I do if I see a stranger with autism having a meltdown?

An Evil Creature Who Didn’t Belong: Perils of a Late Diagnosis

All content found on the All In website, has been created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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