What is the difference between autism and Asperger’s syndrome?

difference between autism and aspergers

Autism and Asperger’s syndrome were once two different diagnoses, but now they both fall under the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

According to the Autism Society website, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM-5) removed Asperger’s as a diagnosis in 2013.

This new classification reocgnises that people with autism experience a spectrum of symptoms and that many people with autism fall somewhere between classic autism and Asperger’s.

In the UK, the NHS states that ‘doctors do not diagnose people with Asperger’s anymore because it’s now thought of as part of autism spectrum disorder. But if you were diagnosed with it before, this will stay as your diagnosis.’

In this article, we will find out more about the symptoms that once led to an Asperger’s diagnosis.

What is autism?

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder that causes the brain to function in slightly different ways. It can affect a person’s communication skills, social skills, and behaviour.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that it can be experienced at different levels of severity and can cause a wide range of different symptoms.

What is Asperger’s syndrome?

Asperger’s syndrome was once considered a separate condition from autism but is now classed as a form of autism spectrum disorder.

People with Asperger’s generally have difficulties with social interaction, but unlike those with classic autism, they may not have a delay in language development.

What are the key differences between autism and Asperger’s?

While autism and Asperger’s diagnoses share many similarities, they also feature some distinct differences. The three key differences between the two are:

Level of support required

One of the key differences between autism and Asperger’s is the level of support that the person usually requires in their day-to-day life. People with classic autism often require more support and intervention, whilst those with Asperger’s may be able to function more independently.

Repetitive behaviours

People with autism are more likely to perform repetitive actions like flapping their arms, rocking backwards and forwards, or spinning around. Those with Asperger’s syndrome are less likely to perform these kinds of repetitive actions but are more likely to have highly specialised, lifelong interests, such as a deep passion for trains or dinosaurs.


People with autism often have difficulty with spoken language, social skills, an eye contact. People with Asperger’s syndrome may also struggle with social skills but generally have good language skills.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be on the autism spectrum, you should seek advice and support from a healthcare professional by contacting your local GP.

You can also find out more about what autism is and how best to support someone who has it by enrolling on an autism awareness training course.