Differentiation between Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism

The Early Differentiation between Asperger’s Syndrome and Infantile Autism

Dr. Hans Asperger was adamant that the condition bearing his name and the one considered infantile autism should not be considered one and the same. Although later physicians are actually questioning this logic, at the time of the initial discovery in 1944 it made a lot of sense to draw a severe and dividing line between the two conditions.
At the heart of the matter is Dr. Asperger’s suggestion that the syndrome was a trait of a developing personality that made it stable. In the 1940s, autism was regarded as a psychotic illness that began in infancy and worsened over the life of the patient.

Later physicians recognized that Dr. Asperger felt way too many children were randomly grouped into a niche with a distinct label, no matter the severity or lack of symptoms. Much like the recent rush to medicate children who would not sit still, back in the 1940s those diagnosed with autism would be routinely shunned and even given up to care homes by their families, even if they could have been cared for perfectly well within a loving home under the supervision of a skilled doctor.

In the same way, later on there was a brief period in the 1960s when the term “refrigerator mother” was coined in an effort to lay the blame for an autistic child on the shoulders of women deemed not affectionate enough with their children. This led to an avoidance of parents seeking out medical help for their children or counselling for their families, and as a result there was a time period when diagnosis and treatment was virtually at a stand still. Making up for this failure was the use of the phrase Asperger’s Syndrome which was sufficiently like autism to make diagnosis possible while insufficiently similar to attach the same societal stigmas.

At this time, Asperger’s Syndrome is the agreed upon terminology to use for those individuals who display signs of autism but which may be considered to be either less affected or functioning more independently than other patients. Of course, there are noted differences between both conditions and thus a distinct differentiation of both ailments is still warranted. Case in point is the obvious clumsiness displayed by Asperger’s’ patients while autistic children will have little of that and instead climb, run and jump earlier and with more dexterity.

At the same time, the social withdrawal that marks both autism and Asperger’s patients is a point of contention, although those suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome are usually quickly identified because of the inappropriate comments they make while regularly autistic children will prefer quiet. There is little doubt that the lines between both conditions are fluid and as social mores change, and also the understanding of the psychiatric and medical communities, there is little doubt that the overall modes of treatment of children and adolescents with both autism and Asperger’s Syndrome will also undergo a further change.

Patients and their families are urged to maintain strong vigilance and uphold advocacy for those in their care to ensure that they will always be at the cutting edge of new medical discoveries and also treatment options.


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