Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism?

Part of the series Current Issues in Autism pp 61-76

Differential Diagnosis of Asperger Disorder

  • Peter SzatmariAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, McMaster University

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Asperger syndrome (AS) refers to a constellation of behaviors characterized by unusual social interactions, difficulties in both verbal and nonverbal communication, and an intense interest in very circumscribed topics. The condition is currently classified as a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) and shares with other PDDs the impairments in reciprocal social interaction, the qualitative impairments in communication, and a pattern of repetitive stereotypic activities. The disorder is “pervasive” insofar as the difficulties pervade all aspects of the child’s life and it is also a developmental disability with an early onset and a pattern that changes with maturation. Asperger disorder has now been included in both DSM-IV (APA, 1994) and ICD-10 (WHO, 1992) even though its nosologic validity is uncertain and controversial. Nevertheless, with such “official” recognition, it is expected that many more children and adolescents will be receiving this diagnosis so it is important that practical guidelines for differential diagnosis be outlined.