Since the release of the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the categorization of autism has undergone changes that have made it more challenging, particularly for individuals who are truly autistic and not just identified as having Asperger’s syndrome, colloquially referred to as “Aspies.”

While it might seem straightforward to consider oneself autistic, whether diagnosed with Autism (disorder), Asperger’s syndrome, PDD-NOS, or Heller’s syndrome (CDD), the reality is more nuanced. The term “autism spectrum disorders” (ASD), which replaced the previous pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) in DSM-V, has brought about significant changes. However, the distinctions made by these terms were actually important, despite the stigma attached to the label “autism disorder.” Unfortunately, many people fail to understand that individuals with autism technically fall under the category of the autism disorder, not any of the other named forms of PDD. This distinction has become less prominent with the introduction of the ASD category.

You may wonder what differentiates these forms of PDD or, in today’s terminology, ASD. The answer lies in the reasons for the existing stigma and the changes implemented in DSM-V. The variations between the autism disorder and Asperger’s syndrome lie in the specific complications experienced by individuals. PDD-NOS, on the other hand, was a diagnosis for individuals who exhibited numerous symptoms of either the autism disorder or Asperger’s syndrome but did not fit precisely into either classification. Heller’s syndrome, now referred to as “regressive autism,” falls under the sub-classification of autism. It is intended for individuals with ASD who develop symptoms later in life, similarly to CDD. It is important to note that the notion of regressive autism being caused by vaccines is discredited and subject to ongoing discussion. In summary, the differences between these conditions are based on the complications, clarity of symptoms, and presence of regressivity, all depending on the specific type of ASD being considered. This explains why most discussions regarding autism mainly focus on the autism disorder and Asperger’s syndrome, as these are the two clear diagnoses within the ASD spectrum.

Now, why is it crucial for everyone to understand the distinction between the autism disorder and Asperger’s disorder? While the complications experienced by individuals with each condition already hint at the answer, let’s delve into the specifics.

As someone diagnosed with the autism disorder falling within the high-functioning autism (HFA) category, it is essential to clarify that HFA is not an officially recognized form of ASD. HFA refers specifically to individuals with the autism disorder who have an IQ of 70 or higher. However, it has not become a valid diagnosis due to the discrimination associated with its use. As someone diagnosed with the autism disorder, I am distinctly different from individuals with Asperger’s syndrome, and here’s why.

Generally, individuals with the autism disorder exhibit lower verbal reasoning skills, have broader interests and curiosities, possess stronger visual thinking abilities (PIQ), display less clumsiness in movements, and experience more difficulty functioning independently compared to most individuals with Asperger’s syndrome. Put simply, individuals with the autism disorder face more challenges in social interactions and independent functioning while being more open-minded than those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

These differences become evident, especially when comparing the online behavior of individuals with the autism disorder (without intellectual disability) to those with Asperger’s syndrome (without intellectual disability). In general, individuals with Asperger’s syndrome are more outgoing and have a larger circle of (online) friends, while those with the autism disorder tend to have a smaller, close-knit group of friends. Additionally, individuals with the autism disorder usually exhibit greater flexibility and diversity in conversation due to their open-mindedness towards various interests and curiosities, whereas individuals with Asperger’s syndrome typically focus intensely on a single subject. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.

Emphasizing these differences is crucial because being an “aspie” (someone with Asperger’s syndrome) is not the same as being autistic (someone with the autism disorder). While both conditions are recognized as part of the ASD, they are fundamentally distinct. In fact, individuals with Asperger’s syndrome often possess social skills that are the polar opposite of those seen in individuals with autism…

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