The autism spectrum includes a range of conditions classified as Pervasive Development Disorders, or PDDs. There is usually some confusion between a diagnosis of autism and a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. There is no clear biomarker or genetic test to determine the difference between the two, so doctors must rely on other clues.
Asperger syndrome was first described by Hans Asperger, a pediatrician, in the 1940’s. For a long time, it was simply referred to as “high functioning autism.” Since then, Asperger’s syndrome has gone on and off the autism spectrum in the DSM, but it is certainly still classified as a PDD.
The main differences between autism and Asperger’s have to do with language skills. Children with autism often face language delays, while kids with Asperger’s do not. Children with autism are often aloof and uninterested in others. Children with Asperger’s often want to be included and fit in, but lack the social skills to do so. Unfortunately this can lead to Depression in kids and teens with Asperger’s.
The first step to a proper diagnosis is assessment by a medical professional with experience in autism and other PDDs. Even professionals can have difficulty distinguishing between the two disorders, so finding the right psychiatrist is critical. The earlier a proper diagnosis is given, the sooner treatment can begin that will help the child live a normal life.