Which is Worse: Autism or Asperger's?

The answer is not so simple as it varies from person to person. However, it is important to understand the differences between the two and the unique challenges that each presents.

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
December 16, 2023

Which is Worse: Autism or Asperger's?

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that affects individuals across a wide range of abilities and characteristics. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of ASD, it is essential to explore what autism spectrum disorder entails and how it differs from Asperger's Syndrome.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that typically manifests in early childhood and persists throughout a person's lifetime. It is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and repetitive or restrictive behaviors. Individuals with ASD may face challenges in understanding and responding to social cues, maintaining conversations, and developing relationships.

ASD is a spectrum disorder, which means that it encompasses a wide range of abilities and symptoms. Some individuals with ASD may have significant language impairments and intellectual disabilities, while others may have average or above-average intelligence. The severity of symptoms and the impact on daily functioning can vary greatly among individuals with ASD.

Differentiating Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

In the past, Asperger's Syndrome was considered a separate diagnosis from autism. However, with the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013, the distinction between autism and Asperger's Syndrome was eliminated. Instead, both conditions are now diagnosed under the umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Previously, Asperger's Syndrome was characterized by milder symptoms compared to autism, particularly in language and cognitive abilities. Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome typically had average or above-average intelligence and exhibited a significant interest in a specific topic. However, it is important to note that the distinction between autism and Asperger's Syndrome was often blurry, and individuals could display a wide range of symptoms regardless of the diagnostic label.

By combining autism and Asperger's Syndrome into the broader category of Autism Spectrum Disorder, it allows for a more comprehensive understanding of neurodiversity and ensures that individuals receive the appropriate support and interventions they need.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder Features

To gain a comprehensive understanding of autism spectrum disorders, it is essential to explore the common characteristics that are shared by individuals with autism, as well as the identifying traits specific to those with Asperger's syndrome.

Common Characteristics of Autism

Autism is characterized by a range of common features that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may exhibit. These characteristics include:

  • Impaired social interaction: People with autism often struggle with social interactions and may have difficulty understanding and responding to social cues.
  • Communication challenges: Individuals with autism may experience difficulties with both verbal and nonverbal communication. This can manifest as delayed speech development, repetitive language patterns, or a preference for nonverbal forms of communication.
  • Restricted and repetitive behaviors: Repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping or rocking, and highly specific interests or routines are common among individuals with autism.
  • Sensory sensitivities: Many individuals with autism have heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as light, sound, touch, or smell. This can lead to sensory overload or discomfort in certain environments.

Identifying Traits of Asperger's Syndrome

While individuals with Asperger's syndrome fall within the autism spectrum, there are specific traits that differentiate them from individuals with classic autism. These traits include:

  • Normal to above-average intelligence: People with Asperger's syndrome typically have average to above-average intellectual abilities. They may excel in specific areas of interest, often displaying intense focus and deep knowledge in specialized subjects.
  • Impaired social skills: Similar to autism, individuals with Asperger's syndrome often struggle with social interactions. They may have difficulty understanding social norms and cues, leading to challenges in forming and maintaining relationships.
  • Language and communication differences: While individuals with Asperger's syndrome may have strong language skills, they may struggle with pragmatic language, such as understanding sarcasm, irony, or nonliteral expressions.
  • Highly focused interests: Individuals with Asperger's syndrome often develop intense interests in specific subjects or topics. They may spend significant time researching and learning about their areas of interest.

Understanding the common characteristics of autism and the identifying traits of Asperger's syndrome is crucial in recognizing and supporting individuals on the autism spectrum. It is important to remember that each individual is unique, and the severity and presentation of symptoms can vary widely. By promoting awareness and understanding, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Similarities and Differences

When comparing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Asperger's Syndrome, it is important to understand the similarities and differences between these two conditions. While both fall under the umbrella of autism, they have distinct features that set them apart. In this section, we will explore the similarities and differences in social interactions and communication, sensory sensitivities and repetitive behaviors, as well as cognitive abilities and learning styles.

Social Interactions and Communication

Both individuals with ASD and Asperger's Syndrome may experience challenges in social interactions and communication. Difficulties in understanding nonverbal cues, maintaining eye contact, and engaging in reciprocal conversations are common characteristics of both conditions.

However, individuals with Asperger's Syndrome may exhibit more developed language skills compared to those with ASD. They may have a formal way of speaking, often with an extensive vocabulary and advanced grammatical structure. On the other hand, individuals with ASD may have varying degrees of language impairment, ranging from minimal speech to nonverbal communication.

Sensory Sensitivities and Repetitive Behaviors

Sensory sensitivities and repetitive behaviors are also shared features of both ASD and Asperger's Syndrome. Individuals with either condition may have heightened sensitivities to sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures. They may also engage in repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping, rocking, or lining up objects.

However, it is worth noting that the severity and specific manifestations of these sensitivities and behaviors can vary greatly among individuals. Some individuals with ASD may have more pronounced sensory sensitivities and engage in repetitive behaviors to a greater extent than those with Asperger's Syndrome.

Cognitive Abilities and Learning Styles

In terms of cognitive abilities and learning styles, individuals with both ASD and Asperger's Syndrome can exhibit a wide range of strengths and challenges. They may demonstrate exceptional abilities in specific areas, such as mathematics, art, or music. However, they may also experience difficulties in other areas, such as social understanding or executive functioning skills.

While individuals with ASD may have a more diverse range of cognitive abilities, those with Asperger's Syndrome often exhibit average to above-average intelligence. They may have a keen interest in specific topics and possess an impressive ability to focus on details.

Understanding the similarities and differences between ASD and Asperger's Syndrome can help in providing appropriate support and interventions for individuals with these conditions. It is essential to recognize that each person is unique, and their experiences may vary.

Impact on Daily Life

Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can present unique challenges for individuals, affecting their daily lives in various ways. It's important to recognize that the impact of ASD can differ between individuals, as each person's experience is unique. In this section, we will explore the challenges faced by individuals with autism and individuals with Asperger's Syndrome.

Challenges Faced by Individuals with Autism

Individuals with autism often face difficulties in several aspects of their daily lives. Some common challenges include:

  1. Social Interactions: Social interactions can be challenging for individuals with autism. Difficulties may arise in understanding social cues, maintaining eye contact, or engaging in reciprocal conversation. These challenges can affect their ability to form and maintain relationships.
  2. Communication: Communication difficulties are a hallmark of autism. Some individuals may have limited verbal language skills, while others may exhibit echolalia (repeating words or phrases) or have difficulty understanding and using nonverbal communication cues, such as facial expressions or body language.
  3. Sensory Sensitivities: Many individuals with autism experience sensory sensitivities, which can make everyday experiences overwhelming. They may be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to certain sounds, lights, textures, or tastes. These sensitivities can impact their ability to navigate different environments comfortably.
  4. Repetitive Behaviors: Repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping, rocking, or strict adherence to routines and rituals, are common in individuals with autism. These behaviors can provide a sense of comfort and stability but may interfere with daily functioning in certain contexts.
  5. Cognitive Flexibility and Executive Functioning: Challenges with cognitive flexibility and executive functioning can make it difficult for individuals with autism to adapt to changes, transition between tasks, or plan and organize their daily activities. This can lead to difficulties in academic, vocational, and independent living settings.

Challenges Faced by Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome

Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome, which is considered a high-functioning form of autism, also encounter specific challenges in their daily lives. These challenges may include:

  1. Social Understanding and Interaction: Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome often struggle with social understanding and interaction. They may have difficulty interpreting social cues, understanding sarcasm or figurative language, and appropriately responding in social situations. As a result, forming and maintaining relationships can be challenging.
  2. Sensory Sensitivities: Similar to individuals with autism, those with Asperger's Syndrome may experience sensory sensitivities. Sensory stimuli, such as loud noises or bright lights, can be overwhelming and cause discomfort or anxiety.
  3. Rigid Thinking: Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome may exhibit rigid thinking patterns and have a strong preference for routines and sameness. They may struggle with adapting to changes or unexpected situations, which can lead to anxiety or distress.
  4. Special Interests: Many individuals with Asperger's Syndrome develop intense interests in specific subjects or topics. While these interests can bring joy and expertise, they may also consume a significant amount of time and attention, potentially interfering with other aspects of daily life.
  5. Executive Functioning Challenges: Difficulties with executive functioning, such as planning, organization, time management, and self-regulation, can impact the daily lives of individuals with Asperger's Syndrome. These challenges can affect academic performance, employment, and independent living skills.

Understanding the challenges faced by individuals with autism and individuals with Asperger's Syndrome is crucial in providing appropriate support and interventions tailored to their specific needs. By recognizing and addressing these challenges, we can create inclusive environments that promote the well-being and success of individuals on the autism spectrum.

Support and Interventions

When it comes to supporting individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Asperger's Syndrome, a variety of therapies and interventions can be beneficial. These interventions aim to address the unique challenges and needs of individuals with these conditions, helping them enhance their skills and lead fulfilling lives. Let's explore the specific therapies and interventions available for both Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome.

Therapies and Interventions for Autism

Therapies and interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder focus on improving communication skills, social interactions, and managing challenging behaviors. Here are some commonly used approaches:

  1. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): ABA is a widely recognized and evidence-based therapy for individuals with autism. It focuses on behavior modification techniques to teach new skills and reduce problematic behaviors. ABA therapy involves breaking down skills into smaller steps and using positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors.
  2. Speech-Language Therapy: Speech-language therapy helps individuals with autism develop effective communication skills. It targets language comprehension, verbal expression, and social communication. Therapists may use visual aids, social stories, and other techniques to facilitate communication.
  3. Occupational Therapy (OT): OT aims to improve an individual's ability to perform daily activities and enhance their sensory processing skills. Occupational therapists work on developing fine motor skills, sensory integration, and self-care skills. This therapy can help individuals with autism navigate sensory sensitivities and improve their overall functioning.
  4. Social Skills Training: Social skills training focuses on teaching individuals with autism the necessary skills to interact and communicate effectively with others. It includes teaching turn-taking, conversation skills, understanding non-verbal cues, and building empathy.

Therapies and Interventions for Asperger's Syndrome

While individuals with Asperger's Syndrome share similarities with those on the autism spectrum, the focus of interventions may differ slightly due to the unique characteristics of Asperger's. Here are some commonly used therapies and interventions for Asperger's Syndrome:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals with Asperger's develop coping strategies for managing anxiety, social difficulties, and repetitive behaviors. It focuses on identifying and challenging negative thoughts and behaviors while promoting healthier alternatives.
  2. Social Skills Training: Similar to individuals with autism, individuals with Asperger's can benefit from social skills training. This therapy focuses on improving social interactions, understanding social cues, and developing friendships.
  3. Executive Functioning Coaching: Executive functioning coaching targets the challenges individuals with Asperger's may face in areas such as planning, organization, time management, and problem-solving. Coaches provide strategies and support to help individuals improve their executive functioning skills.
  4. Sensory Integration Therapy: As individuals with Asperger's may also experience sensory sensitivities, sensory integration therapy can be beneficial. This therapy helps individuals process sensory information, reduce sensory overload, and enhance their ability to engage in daily activities.

It's important to note that the above therapies and interventions are not exhaustive. The specific needs and strengths of each individual should be considered when determining the most appropriate interventions. Consulting with professionals and creating an individualized plan can greatly support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger's Syndrome on their unique journeys.


In conclusion, while both autism and Asperger's are neurodevelopmental disorders that affect social interaction, communication, and behavior, they are not the same. The answer to which is worse varies from person to person, and it is important to understand the unique challenges and strengths that each presents. Rather than focusing on which is worse, we should focus on acceptance, understanding, and celebrating the unique abilities and experiences of individuals with autism or Asperger's.