Cognitive and symptom profiles in Asperger's syndrome and high-functioning autism

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Asperger syndrome (AS) and autistic disorder are two subtypes of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), but there has been considerable debate over whether AS and autistic disorder without mental retardation (IQ ≥ 70), called high-functioning autism (HFA), are distinct conditions or not. The aim of the present paper was to clarify this issue through a comparison of cognitive function and autistic symptom profiles. Based on the DSM-IV and ICD-10 definitions of language acquisition, 36 age- and IQ-balanced subjects with AS (mean age, 12.8 years; mean full-scale IQ, 98.3) were compared with 37 subjects with HFA (mean age, 12.6 years; mean full-scale IQ, 94.6) on the Japanese version of the Wechsler Intelligence Scales and the Childhood Autism Rating Scale-Tokyo Version (CARS-TV). Compared with the HFA subjects, the AS subjects scored significantly higher on Verbal IQ, Vocabulary, and Comprehension, but scored significantly lower on Coding. Although the total CARS-TV score did not differ significantly between the two groups, AS subjects scored significantly lower (i.e. less abnormal) on Verbal communication and Non-verbal communication than did the HFA subjects. A history of normal language acquisition in early childhood could predict his/her better verbal ability in mid-childhood or later. Autistic cognitive characteristics shared by both AS and HFA subjects appear to support the validity of the current diagnostic classification of PDD.

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