Lisa Friedman, Inclusive Educator, Religious School Director, writer & speaker
Hi there. Great question. Autism IS a spectrum disorder, so when you hear the expression "on the spectrum" this is what is being referred to. In addition, there are differences between the classifications of autism and Asperger's. In general, those who have been classified with Asperger's tend to be "higher functioning" than those classified with autism.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is now defined by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a single disorder that includes disorders that were previously considered separate — autism, Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.
The term "spectrum" in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity. Although the term "Asperger's syndrome" is no longer in the DSM, some people still use the term, which is generally thought to be at the mild end of autism spectrum disorder.
Hope this is helpful!