Ever since Asperger Syndrome was moved under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder, there has been a great deal of debate about whether Asperger Syndrome (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA) are one and the same. Both share many characteristics including difficulty understanding facial expressions and nonverbal cues; however, the main difference between the two is language development.

  • Children with HFA have developmental delays in cognitive ability from birth and usually don’t start talking until later in life. The disorder can be diagnosed at an early age.
  • Children with Asperger Syndrome do not have a speech delay, and don’t usually start showing symptoms until later childhood. Because the symptoms in young children are more subtle and easily camouflaged, AS may be misdiagnosed in the early years.
  • Children with Asperger Syndrome are believed to perform better cognitively than those with High Functioning Autism. The key difference in the diagnostic criteria for Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism is that children with HFA are associated with a greater speech delay than those with AS.
  • Research demonstrates that individuals with HFA have a scattered cognitive profile with better ability to perform a range of non-verbal tasks. On the other hand, children with AS have a scattered cognitive profile, but a greater overall score in verbal tasks.

Similarities Between Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism

Children with Asperger Syndrome are not able to express their feelings clearly and connect with others, just like kids with HFA. These kids have trouble reading facial expressions and body language, and are unable to hold eye contact. In addition:

  • Children with Asperger Syndrome and HFA often have unusual speech patterns and speak without much emotion.
  • They may also exhibit sensitivity to different stimuli, from clothing to sounds to food items.
  • They often become obsessed with objects and will collect things like rocks or pencils.
  • Because they lack skills in social interaction, children with AS and HFA are often regarded as being socially awkward.
  • Most children with AS and HFA experience poor coordination as well as problems with fine motor control.
  • Children with AS and HFA typically have average or above average intelligence.

All in all, the final subtleties between Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism may only be a matter of semantics. Because they are both so similar, they will be treated pretty much the same way with the help of a mental health professional who will pull together a team to help parents develop an intervention plan tailored specifically for their child. This always involves behavior therapy, and sometimes medication when needed.

If you suspect your child may have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, please contact a qualified professional to make sure they receive a proper diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.


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