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What is the Difference Between Asperger’s and Autism?

Nov 14, 2022

Asperger’s syndrome (AS) and autism are medical conditions that affect the patient’s behavior, relationships, and social interactions. Historically, doctors and researchers diagnosed AS and autism separately. But since 2013, both developmental conditions have combined under the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis.

Asperger’s syndrome and autism are both neurodevelopmental disorders and can be challenging to differentiate. However, doctors and patients should know the types and symptoms accompanying Asperger’s syndrome and autism, mainly for treatment purposes.

The most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), incorporates Asperger’s syndrome into the ASD diagnosis. But before this change, mental health professionals looked into specific signs and symptoms when diagnosing AS.

This post provides an in-depth overview of AS and autism and explores ways healthcare providers can diagnose ASD and other conditions with similar diagnoses.

What is Autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the patient’s perception of things happening around them. The condition also involves poor social and emotional interactions. It refers to a set of complex conditions in the patient’s brain development characterized by difficulties in social interactions, repetitive behavioral patterns, and verbal and non-verbal communication that may vary in severity.

The fundamental pathological autism process begins in the patient’s brain development stages. However, the most significant symptoms often appear around 2-3 years. These signs and symptoms may worsen gradually.

Still, the exact etiology of autism is yet to be identified, but there’s an apparent genetic predisposition linked to environmental factors.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Until recently, Asperger’s syndrome was considered a “mild” variant of autism. Patients with the condition exhibited autistic behaviors slightly different from neurotypicals (non-autistic people).

The DSM-IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1994, included Asperger syndrome for the first time after individuals suspected of having the autism-related disorder were diagnosed to have:

  • Autistic Disorder
  • Asperger’s Disorder
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

AS is characterized by the following:

  • Abnormal language usage
  • Physical clumsiness
  • Restricted or repetitive behavioral patterns
  • Poor non-verbal communication
  • Unusual social interaction
  • Poor social skills

Similarly, the exact etiology of AS is yet to be identified. However, genetics and other environmental factors have been known to play a critical role in the condition’s pathogenesis.

The primary treatment modalities for AS intervention include:

  • Anxiolytics
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Parenting training programs
  • Physical and speech therapy
  • Social skill training

Replaced By ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’

AS made its first official appearance when the World Health Organization published the International Classification of Disease (ICD), 10th edition. Research by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) prompted medical experts to identify potentially distinct autism subgroups, allowing assessments and treatments to be more refined and targeted.

However, these yielded variable results, with the general research consensus showing that healthcare professionals applied diagnostic criteria inconsistently. Studies also found that Asperger’s and autism patients exhibited signs and symptoms that were more similar than different.

This inconsistent application and similarities in Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) prompted the APA to remove the clinical term (Asperger’s syndrome) from use and replace it with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Over time, Asperger’s faded from clinical use. But given that Asperger’s was initially introduced to determine if Asperger’s differed from other clinical descriptions. Therefore, observing and reflecting on society’s current adoption and integration of the term is interesting.

What’s the Difference Between Asperger’s and Autism?

Understanding the differences between the characteristics that lead medical experts to an Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis and other ASD manifestations is difficult to pinpoint. Before Asperger’s syndrome was officially removed as a standalone condition from the DSM-5, the DSM-IV outlined and clinically defined its classification and distinction.

This segment provides an in-depth overview of the differences between Asperger’s syndrome and autism, including the following:


Autism: is a mental condition characterized by great difficulty communicating normally and forming relationships with others. Patients have difficulty using language and abstract concepts, making them feel isolated in society.

Asperger’s syndrome: is a developmental disorder characterized by pedantry in speech, preoccupation with very narrow interests, and awkward social interactions.

Language Skills

Autism: most autistic patients exhibit a language delay and mostly start talking later in life as opposed to AS patients

Asperger’s syndrome: people with Asperger’s syndrome display good language skills as a normal, healthy person would. However, they may use the language differently.

Social Interactions

Autism: autistic children often prefer an isolated lifestyle from society. They are often uninterested in things happening around them. They may even have severely impaired social and communication skills.

Asperger’s syndrome: patients with AS prefer to move along with society and enjoy interacting with others, although they may not know how to. They tend to face awkward situations due to a lack of knowledge of social norms.

Severity of Signs and Symptoms

Autism: autistic patients exhibit severe signs and symptoms compared to patients with AS.

Asperger’s syndrome: patients with AS exhibit mild signs and symptoms compared to autistic patients. Most AS patients will often look healthy but exhibit quiet behavior.

Can TMS Help Asperger’s Syndrome?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) uses highly effective treatment interventions for Asperger’s syndrome and autism treatment. We use a holistic, patient-focused approach to minimize autism and Asperger’s symptoms effectively. TMS can help patients in ways other treatments may not be able to do.

Autistic and AS patients can receive TMS therapy and excellent care at our San Diego TMS Center. Our team of compassionate healthcare providers supports patients during their TMS therapy.

Some benefits of using TMS therapy for autism and Asperger’s syndrome include the following:

  • Relatively painless
  • Non-invasive treatment. The treatment is entirely external to the body
  • Non-sedative. It does not require any sedation
  • Has a very high success rate in minimizing autism and AS symptoms
  • Have minimal to no side effects

Brain Therapy TMS provides TMS services focused on treating various brain conditions, including Asperger’s and autism. Our patient-focused and advanced treatment approaches point to TMS as a promising treatment option for ASD. Our treatment approach for autism and Asperger’s syndrome targets specific areas of the brain to address the patient’s symptoms.

Considering TMS Treatment? Schedule a Consultation!

Tired of the results you’re getting from your standard treatment? Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation may be able to increase your chances of long-term remission, reducing your symptoms and allowing you to live a more joyful life.




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