Asperger’s, now part of the autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, involves patterns of behavior and communication changes.

Asperger’s syndrome is an older diagnosis that’s now categorized as part of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

In past years, autistic people were given a diagnosis of either:

  • autistic disorder
  • Asperger’s disorder
  • childhood disintegrative disorder
  • pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)

Even though Asperger’s syndrome is no longer an official diagnosis, some autistic people still self-identify with the term Asperger’s.

ASD, including Asperger’s, is made up of distinct communication differences and behavioral patterns. Autistic people may also rely strongly on routine and have a harder time dealing with change.

The way autism presents falls on a spectrum based on how much support the person needs. Some autistic people don’t need a lot of support, while others need more.

People who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s tend to fall into the category of needing less support, but this isn’t always the case. Some research explains that Asperger’s is often defined as “high-functioning” autism, but the person might still need support in certain areas.

It’s generally more accurate to talk about Asperger’s symptoms as patterns that involve communication and behavior.

An autistic person who identifies as an Aspie (person with Asperger’s) may still show many of the patterns that an autistic person does.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists guidelines that help clinicians diagnose autism spectrum disorder.

According to these guidelines, an autistic person will:

  • show differences in their communication and social interaction abilities
  • show 2 to 4 types of repetitive or restricted behaviors

In cases where these patterns make it much harder to adapt in neurotypical situations, an autistic person might need higher levels of support.

If you see yourself as an Aspie, it might be easier for you to mask autistic behaviors. But this can lead to feelings of loneliness or lack of belonging, especially around nonautistic people.

Communication patterns in Asperger’s and autism

Asperger’s syndrome has been rolled into autism spectrum disorder, so they now have the same guidelines for diagnosis. These include:

Differences when it comes to social give-and-take

An autistic person may find it harder to take part in social settings, which can involve a lot of back and forth conversation. Some people may be less likely to start conversations or pick up on the tone of the conversation.

Differences in nonverbal communication

An autistic person may not make as much eye contact in a social interaction. They might not read facial expressions or body language the way nonautistic people do.

Differences in their approach to relationships

In some cases, autistic people find it harder to connect with others. This can make it seem like they’re not interested in forming friendships with others, even when the opposite is true.

Autistic people may also find it takes more energy to decode what communication is appropriate for different situations or relationships, and to act in that way.

Behavioral patterns in Asperger’s and autism

Certain behavioral patterns are also a key aspect of Asperger’s and autism, like:

Repetitive movements or speech

An autistic person may repeat certain behaviors like tapping fingers or blinking their eyes. These repetitive behaviors are often called stimming.

They may also repeat the same sounds or phrases, a behavior called “echolalia.”

Need for routine

An autistic person may prefer to keep certain routines or rituals. For example, they might have a certain way of grocery shopping or particular items they buy each time.

Because these routines can lend stability to an autistic person’s life, a change to the routine might feel jarring or unsettling.

Strong interests

Autistic people may focus intently on a certain interest and feel very attached to it. This interest can extend to objects, too.

Different reactions to sensations

If you’re autistic, you might also have different reactions to your surroundings. For example, some autistic people may not notice pain or big changes in temperature. Others may feel overwhelmed by changes in light or sound.

Asperger’s syndrome isn’t associated with delays in language and communication. Meanwhile, autism spectrum disorder is linked to delays in certain areas of development, especially according to neurotypical measures.

Since autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are both neurodevelopmental conditions, some autistic kids may also have an ADHD diagnosis.

In children, Asperger’s (or more accurately, ASD) could look like:

  • having few friends at school
  • having anxiety about going to school
  • loneliness
  • depression
  • a lack of imaginary play
  • less interest in sports or activities that involve coordination
  • having specific interests like music, space, trains, and more
  • sensitivity to noise, textures, and certain environments

A child with Asperger’s syndrome may have below average executive functioning (mental adaptability), but above average problem-solving skills.

It’s a common misconception that all kids with Asperger’s are geniuses or highly intelligent. In reality, may autistic people also have intelligence that falls in the average range.

At school, autistic children may have a hard time connecting with others and experience social isolation. In fact, over 40% of autistic children have experienced bullying or intimidation at school.

Adults with Asperger’s will likely show many of the same signs as someone with an ASD diagnosis.

Not everyone with Asperger’s or an ASD diagnosis will have the exact same communication and behavior patterns. But in adults, Asperger’s may look like:

  • having relationship ideas that clash with neurotypical expectations
  • experiencing social difficulties in nonautistic settings
  • having trouble adjusting language to different situations
  • feeling anxiety when a routine is interrupted
  • focusing on the self and personal interests in conversation
  • repetitive behaviors
  • having trouble decoding emotions or feelings in others

Sometimes the way autism presents can cause challenges at work or in a relationship.

In workplace environments with a lot of change or demand for flexibility, an autistic person may end up feeling derailed or overwhelmed. Still, other traits — like creativity, logical reasoning, and others — can make autistic people a great fit for workplaces that value these qualities.

And in relationships, autistic people may notice emotional gaps between themselves and nonautistic people. This can make some relationships more difficult.

Some people may receive a diagnosis of ASD or Asperger’s as a child, but adults can also be diagnosed with ASD.

Clinicians today don’t generally diagnose Asperger’s syndrome. People who met previous criteria for Asperger’s may instead get a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

The DSM-5 requires certain criteria to be met for an ASD diagnosis to apply.

In addition to the communication and behavioral patterns listed above, an autistic person must show signs of autism from an early age, even if they’re getting a diagnosis as an adult.

If you’re having trouble with any aspect of living as an autistic person, you have a lot of options when it comes to support. Here are a few articles you might find helpful if you don’t know where to start:

Asperger’s syndrome is no longer an official diagnosis. It’s been replaced by autism spectrum disorder in the DSM-5, but some autistic people still identify with Asperger’s syndrome.

While autism and Asperger’s syndrome share most of the same features, people with Asperger’s tend to be seen as having fewer support needs than other autistic people.

Every autistic person is different though, and autism will present differently from person to person.

While autism is often diagnosed in childhood, it’s not uncommon for it to be diagnosed in adulthood either. This may be especially true for adults with Asperger’s who had an easier time masking signs of autism.