What is Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger Syndrome (AS), a subgroup conceptualised as part of the autistic spectrum, shares the features of autism but without the associated learning difficulties (i.e., those with AS have average or even above average IQ) and with no history of any language delay.

Are AS (Asperger Syndrome) or HFA (High Functioning Autism) disabilities?

  • Both can be thought of as a personality style in which the individual does not ‘tune in’ naturally to people and is more attracted by objects, systems, and how things work
  • Both involve strengths in attention to detail, and can be associated with talent in areas such as mathematics, science, fact-collecting or rule-based subjects
  • Both are disabilities only in environments where the individual is expected to be both sociable and a good communicator

What is the difference between AS and HFA?

Both share:

  • Difficulties in social relationships, across development
  • Difficulties in communication, across development
  • The presence of unusual and strong, narrow interests (sometimes called obsessions)
  • A resistance to change
  • Average or above average intelligence (IQ)

But in HFA there is language delay; in AS there is not. HFA and AS contrast with the other major subgroup on the autistic spectrum: classic autism. These individuals share the same diagnostic features as in AS and HFA but they invariably had a history of language delay, and their IQ may be anywhere on the intelligence scale, including in the range for learning difficulties. 

Note that

a) HFA is not listed in any of the official diagnostic categories but is in widespread use.

b) Under the proposed revision to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) (5th Edition) due out in 2012, the category of AS may be dropped in favour of a single overarching category of Autism Spectrum Disorders. 


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