Understanding The Difference Between Asperger’s & High Functioning Autism

“Our Children Left Behind” is a my personal blog designed to assist fellow parents, guardians and teachers to find appropriate resources in properly identifying and caring for children on the autism spectrum.  Diagnosing a child’s learning disorder is usually the first step in getting them the proper care and treatment that they need in life.

There are many unique challenges that come with raising a child with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, but that doesn’t change the fact that the children bring a special joy into parents’ lives, and we wouldn’t trade the love and special moments no matter how many challenges there are. As a concerned parent, it makes sense that you want as much information as possible whenever dealing with any type of challenge that is affecting the children you love. Two terms that often come up are high functioning autism (HFA) and Asperger’s Syndrome. click here for more details.

Many parents quickly realize how similar these two diagnoses are and find it hard to get clear information about each one. The truth is that there is a lot of overlap between the two, to the point that in many cases HFA and Asperger Syndrome are used interchangeably as a diagnosis. Currently this isn’t correct as they are each a very separate diagnosis but there is also a major debate about whether this is actually the case or not, and there’s a chance that the two conditions will be combined into one in the future.

What’s The Difference?

The two conditions are similar in many ways, but there are some small differences. Right now the main difference between Asperger’s and high functioning autism tends to be the development of language. Basically if HFA tends to be the diagnosis it is because the child takes much longer to learn language and that development can be really difficult and frustrating for the kid in the beginning. When the diagnosis is Asperger’s, there isn’t an obvious delay in the child learning language, the potential red flags pointing to AS come in other forms later on.

How Are These Conditions Like Autism?

Children with Asperger’s and HFA both experience many similar traits or challenges early on in life. Both find it very hard to express their feelings, in large part because emotions can be very confusing to them so they’re not always completely sure what they’re feeling, much less how to properly express it. This can make connecting with others very challenging, and reading emotions by holding eye contact, reading people’s faces or gestures, or understanding their emotional signs is just hard.

Understanding The Difference Between Asperger's & High Functioning Autism

Some other common (though not necessarily guaranteed) behaviors include not being able to hold eye contact, speak without much emotional variance, obsessively interested in one object or subject, or even the flapping of their hands. Children with both AS and HFA often have triggers (whether sight, sound, smell) that can cause a sudden panic attack or rash of sudden extreme behaviors.

How Does AS & HFA Differ From “Regular” Autism Cases

Children with AS/HFA differ from children who have what’s considered more classic autism. AS/HFA children tend to have normal or even high IQs in many cases. Generally speaking they are often seem like most children, just “a little weird” or “socially awkward in a strange way.” This can be why it sometimes takes so long for healthcare providers to properly diagnose children with either one of these conditions, delaying social training and treatment that could otherwise help.

There are challenges, but by paying attention and being prepared with the power of knowledge, you will be able to offer the loving support your children deserve.

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