Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Differences between Aspergers and Autism ‘fruit salads’?


In one of my books, The Jumbled Jigsaw, I presented a range of conditions commonly collectively occurring in those with autism and Aspergers. I was asked about the differences between an Aspergers (AS) ‘fruit salad’ and an Autism ‘fruit salad’. As an autism consultant since 1996 and having worked with over 1000 people diagnosed on the autism spectrum there are areas that overlap, areas where similar can easily be mistaken for same, and areas that are commonly quite different. Some with AS can present far more autistically in childhood but function very successfully in adulthood. Some with Autism can have abilities and tendencies commonly found in Aspies and some will grow up to function far more successfully than they could in childhood but, nevertheless, when together with adults with Aspergers they each notice that the differences may commonly outweigh the similarities. Generally the more common differences are:

originally called ‘Autistic Psychopathy‘(now outdated)
commonly not diagnosed until mid, even late childhood.
lesser degrees of gut, immune, metabolic disorders, epilepsy and genetic anomalies impacting health systems
mood, anxiety, compulsive disorders commonly onset from late childhood/teens/early adulthood as a result of bullying, secondary to social skills problems, secondary to progressive self isolation and lack of interpersonal challenge/involvement/occupation.
scotopic sensitivity/light sensitivity more than simultagnosia
most have social emotional agnosia & around 30% have faceblindness but usually not due to simultagnosia
literal but not meaning deaf
social communication impairments, sometimes selective mutism secondary to Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD)
sensory hypersensitivities more than sensory perceptual disorders
higher IQ scores due to less impaired visual-verbal processing
tendency toward Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), Schizoid rather than Schizotypal Personality Disorder and commonly Dependent Personality Disorder to some level.
higher tendency to AvPD rather than Exposure Anxiety
Alexithymia is common
ADHD common co-occurance but may be less marked than in those with autism.

Once known as Childhood Psychosis (now outdated)
generally there is always some diagnosis before age 3 (those born before 1980 were still usually diagnosed before age 3, although commonly with now outdated terms like ‘psychotic children’, ‘disturbed’, ‘mentally retarded’, ‘brain damaged’.
higher degrees and severity of gut, immune, metabolic disorders, epilepsy and genetic anomalies impacting health systems
mood, anxiety, compulsive disorders commonly observed since infancy
commonly amazing balance but commonly hypotonia
simultagnosia/meaning blindness rather than just scotopic sensitivity
verbal agnosia/meaning deafness
verbal communication impairments (aphasia, oral dyspraxia, verbal agnosia and associated echolalia and commonly secondary Selective Mutism)
lower IQ scores associated with higher severity of LD/Dyslexia/agnosias
tendency toward OCD/Tourettes, also higher rate of Schizotypal PD, DPD is common and tends to be more severe
higher tendency to Exposure Anxiety more than AvPD
higher tendency toward dissociative states (dissociation, derealisation, depersonalisation)
poetry by those with autism as opposed to AS commonly indicates those with autism can have high levels of introspection, insight
ADHD extremely common co-occurrence

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.