Is there a difference between autism and Asperger syndrome?
Most of us have a preconceived idea of what autism and Asperger syndrome are. In fact, we tend, erroneously, to classify them as two different disorders, when, as María Verde, a psychologist in the Autism Spain Research area, explains, they are not. Perhaps, this is especially due to the fact that children with Asperger’s tend to have certain characteristics that have led us to make this distinction. However, the expert clarifies what is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), its characteristics and what we understand by Asperger syndrome. Read also: Childhood autism, how to help your child in their day to day What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Mar Verde explains that ASD refers to a neurodevelopmental condition that accompanies people throughout their life, from the moment they are born. And, precisely, as its name indicates, the concept ‘spectrum’ refers to the fact that it encompasses people who have variable and heterogeneous characteristics and symptoms. “They present aspects that can vary greatly between people: some may present a total absence of language or communicative behavior, while others, on the contrary, can express themselves and understand things well, but perhaps they do so awkwardly” , details. However, although these characteristics are highly variable, it is true that they share others at various levels: Communication and social interaction. They may have difficulties both at the level of comprehension and expression. For example, some people with ASD have adequate language skills, while others have difficulty relating to others and understanding their environment. Repetitive and restrictive behaviors. Having to adapt to a change can cause them discomfort, and they may insist that things always happen the same way. Altered sensory stimuli. For example, you may feel discomfort at certain sounds, smells … or show an unusual interest in some things, insisting on being able to smell or touch them. Also read: How did isolation affect people with autism? Asperger’s syndrome is included in the autism spectrum. There are no different types of ASD. “In the past it was distinguished, but, today, it is about eliminating the categories so as not to pigeonhole them more, because, in the end, the disorder simply varies in its severity and is more correct from a scientific point of view,” says the psychologist . What the specialists do determine is whether or not that ASD is associated with a disability, and what is currently understood by Asperger is an ASD without intellectual disability. So much so that, less and less frequently, as Mar Verde points out, it is also sometimes called ‘High-functioning Autism’. And from the Asperger Confederation of Spain, they speak of a developmental disorder, included within the autism spectrum, which affects two areas: Social interaction. They find it difficult to relate to their environment. Communication (both verbal and non-verbal). They often do not fully understand spoken language. To this must be added their resistance to accept changes, the repetition of routines (they usually have ‘rituals’) and inflexibility. In fact, they tend to show very specific interests. Still, society often identifies them as intellectually brilliant little ones. This is due, in large part, to the fact that some people with ASD have an interest and concern for topics that, for many, are surprising. Of course, experts warn that, over a period of time, these interests may vary, even excluding other activities. Also read: What are the symptoms of Asperger syndrome in children? Do they have a different diagnosis and treatment? The psychologist highlights that autism is “incredibly variable”, so there is no unequivocal sign of whether or not the child has this disorder, and warns that it is quite common for children to go unnoticed. “The first concerns of families come when it is very serious and it is very clear that the child does not communicate as expected.” For this reason, she advises paying special attention to whether children present any of these first signs of ASD early: Few social smiles. If it does not respond to its own name or does so in a very inconsistent way. He does not approach other people to show them that there are things in his space and environment that attract his attention. He has little interest in other children and little social initiative. Vocalizes very little, does not babble, or uses a small variety of words. Their games do not vary. Always use objects in the same way and repeatedly. Faced with any of these ‘signs’, he advises parents to go to the pediatrician’s office, who will usually refer them to the early care service. Other times, if the family has not realized it, it is quite normal for them to be informed from the educational field. The earlier it is detected, the better it will be for the child, “because the sooner we will influence their development, the children will present more plasticity and flexibility, and also more opportunities for learning and for social interaction to be more successful.” Regarding treatment, it indicates that it will depend on the difficulties of each one, and how the ASD affects their life. Depending on this, you can receive the support of different professionals: Psychologists and psychiatrists. It highlights that children and young people with ASD can present important mental health problems: depression, anxiety … Especially in people who do not have an intellectual disability, who suffer from this inability to relate satisfactorily with others. Speech therapists, in relation to language development. Occupational therapists to develop their autonomy. Physiotherapists, for everything related to mobility when there are added motor difficulties. Finally, the psychologist reminds us that we can also highlight many of the virtues of children with ASD: “they are people who pay a lot of attention to detail, are very responsible, compliant, perfectionists, sincere … They have a great capacity for commitment, follow the rules and are usually very empathetic, in their own way. ” Also read: This is the relationship between autism and the intestinal microbiota