What is the Difference between Asp. and High Functioning Autism? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 12-21-2007, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi boardfolks!

I am really sorry if this is a "old" topic, but I have been unable to find a thread like this in the archives. Forgive me! I was wondering if anyone can distinguish Aspbergers v. High Functioning Autism for me. I often see them used almost interchangeably, but what research I have done has shown me that they are actually different.

The reason I am confused is because what I have read indicates that Aspergers kids often have many similar characteristics to HFA kids but are advanced talkers.

Many of the dx I have seen on here and other places has described their kids as speech delayed, or at one time speech delayed, yet end up with an Aspberger dx.

I have worked with some kids that were dx'd with Asp., so I have an idea of what a person with Asp. will behave like. What would be the main difference with a HFA teen or adult?

I have also read a study recently that looked at long-term prognosis for HFA and Asp kids. I don't remember sample numbers, but it looked at independent living in both sets of people. Looked at "Being Employed" and "Living by themselves" as 2 of the main qualifiers.
Of Asp, 80% had one or the other. 50% had both.
Of HFA, 0% had both.
I am not endorsing this information, or making any claims to its validity, so if anyone has serious issues with this, I am not looking to upset anyone. It just happens to be one of the studies I have read. Looking to see what the experts (you guys) think/know.

Thanks guys...Things are still up in the air with my DS, more evals Jan, but trying to educate myself as much as possible. My guy is verbal, but behind the curve, poor articulation, pronoun reversals, and some name self-referencing, but has good receptive language. Even though another set of evals are about 2 weeks away, I am still kinda consumed by all this, and trying to see what info I can find out.
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#2 of 7 Old 12-21-2007, 12:45 PM
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Well, actually high functioning autism is not a real diagnostic category.
The actual ones are pdd-nos, autism, Asperger.
I guess there are also Rett’s and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder but those two are quite different in terms of the etiology.

So high functioning really is just a term people use that means nothing specific. It would imply that a person has normal intelligence. Same implication in aspergers. Aspie kiddos cannot have a significant speech delay when assessed; they don't have to be ahead in speech necessarily. Though many probably would be I guess. I think that is where the confusion with a kiddo ending up with an aspie dx. When they were assessed for aspergers at say age 6 they did not have a delay.

As far as the stats. I wouldn't put much stock in them thinking about my own child. First, you are comparing individuals diagnosed a long time ago to the kiddos diagnosed now. The awareness was different then. A suspect a very mild child would never have been identified. Second, you really can't predict how any individual child is going to manage (autism, aspie, or typical even) based on stats about other people.

Another issue with the high functioning thing. It's awfully subjective. And intelligence is often presumed to be deficient in autism kids when it isn't. It's hard to test a child who, say, has poor joint attention. Or if a test that uses language is used to test a person with language difficulties. There's interesting stuff out there on that. But suffice it to say that IQ testing has some major problems.

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#3 of 7 Old 12-21-2007, 12:57 PM
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My son was diagnosed high functioning, that is the actual label they gave us. He didn't fit PDD-NOS at the time of dx (but he probably would now that a lot of his more severe behaviors have resolved) but he was verbal but did have a speech delay. He didn't fit Asperger's or classic autism. So that's how he ended up with the label he has.

From what I was told if they have a speech delay they don't have Asperger's. But I know someone has a little boy dx'd as Aspie but he was very speech delayed so um? She doesn't think it's right and I think he has adhd but whatever. Her son was dx'd in the military health care system and sometimes they have no clue what they are doing with regard to this stuff. My son was sent out for civilian care and saw a child psych that specialized in autism spectrum disorders.

The best advice I can give you is wait until you have the dx and then drive yourself crazy looking stuff up instead of wondering and reading studies and concerning yourself with the maybes.
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#4 of 7 Old 12-21-2007, 03:33 PM
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There is no real consensus.

To some IQ threshold is the only difference, to others Language delay is the only difference, to others the definition of Aspergers is "higher functioning than a high functioning autistic"

In short "High Functioning Autistic" and "Asperger's" are both labels that have no real bearing and no real concrete basis. An aspie diagnosis won't change who your son is, and neither will an HFA diagnosis. This is a spectrum, and pinpointing it won't really gain you anything.
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#5 of 7 Old 12-21-2007, 05:26 PM
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There is no DSM IV diagnosis of HFA, however, it is used colloquially to refer to people who have most or all traits of Asperger's but who had or have a significant language delay. A language delay excludes a diagnosis of Asperger's (which IMO it shouldn't).
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#6 of 7 Old 12-21-2007, 07:14 PM
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I think, though, rhetoric aside, that the difference can be negligible once adults. Then again, people on the spectrum are so immensely diverse, it's hard to make that estimation.
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#7 of 7 Old 12-21-2007, 10:18 PM
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Those stats are baffling, especially considering there are Autistic adults here who are very independant, hav ejobs and families. A "study" can be spun many ways and "prove" whatever it is hte person conducting it wants to prove.

Anyways... my ds was first labled as Asperger's and then Autism. He has great language, it was delayed and he often doesn't "get" things but normal IMO. Thats why he was given the Asperger's DX first. But after going to specialists they revised it to mild-moderate classic Autism. (And if he went back today it would probably land him firmly in moderate classic) So he isn't considered HFA. What does this mean to me? Nothing. I know he'll be capable of eventually living independantly and finding his niche in the world. His DX doesn't change the fact that I will help him learn in the method that works for him and learn life skills just like I would for any of my other children.

Mom to Joscelyne 14, Andrew 12, and Mackenzie 10 and wife to Nate.
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