Adios, Aspergers!

Snip from New York Times op-ed by Roy Richard Grinker: "The American Psychiatric Association, with its release (...) of proposed revisions to its authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is recommending that Asperger's be dropped." (thanks, Antinous)



    1. It’s not that Asperger’s will become null and void.

      The diagnosis will be deprecated. They’re not pretending that the elements don’t exist, but Asperger will no longer be a valid diagnosis. It will simply be ‘autism’. That’s like putting my asymptomatic mitral valve prolapse in the same category with myocardial infarction. “Oh, we’re just calling them all heart disease now.”

      The American Psychiatric Association, with its release this week of proposed revisions to its authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is recommending that Asperger’s be dropped. If this revision is adopted, the condition will be folded into the category of “autism spectrum disorder,” which will no longer contain any categories for distinct subtypes of autism like Asperger’s and “pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified” (a category for children with some traits of autism but not enough to warrant a diagnosis).

  1. Actually, as an aspie, I’m not sure this is bad. The level of function and non-function can blur lines in terms of what’s covered by insurance, disability, etc. Defining asperger’s as a form of autism might help that.

    (Caveat: as if insurance covered mental health issues. har.)

    1. The level of function and non-function can blur lines in terms of what’s covered by insurance, disability, etc. Defining asperger’s as a form of autism might help that.

      That seemed to be the ‘pro’ argument. But imagine if you were going to mention to your boss or a potential relationship that you have Asperger. It seems like you’d have to do a lot more educating if you were to tell them that you have autism. I would think that it would discourage people from talking about it, which only increases the stigma.

      1. Why would you need to tell your boss you had autism instead of saying Asperger’s just because the APA started folding everything into autism?

        Seems to me that people can explain their abilities however they want to other people.

        And if, as the article suggests, the idea is that people will eventually no longer feel the need to use different terms because it will become more widely understood that autism has a wide range, well then you still don’t need to worry about it.

  2. it’s not controversial to say that aspergers is an autism spectrum disorder (although the term disorder is loaded, maybe just “order” would be better), so it isn’t imprecise of them to fold it in.

    aspergers as a term is partly euphemistic: the diagnostic criteria aren’t radically different from HFA (high functioning autism), but it’s preferred because parents don’t want to hear that their child is autistic. I’m of the opinion that NVLD (non-verbal learning disorder) is the newest preferred euphemism, although of course there are some diagnostic differences.

    It would be a much bolder move for the DSM to collapse all autism spectrum disorders into one category, and then reclassify them as difference rather than disorder: many of the best and brightest scientific minds of history may have been autistic: their minds weren’t disordered, their difference was their strength.

    1. As someone diagnosed with NVLD, there are most certainly differences between it and Asperger’s, the current theory being that NVLD is the result of mild right hemisphere damage – which I indeed had from a severe childhood concussion. I have a significant impairment with math, executive functioning, and anything visual-spacial (I can’t drive), but my social skills are pretty damn solid.

      Personally, I’ve always felt that Asperger’s was a high-level autism spectrum disorder, and it feels right to consider it a form of autism, though I feel losing the label will make some sufferers uneasy when they need to explain their differences.

      I am upset NVLD isn’t making it in though, while NVLD has similarities with autism spectrum disorders, I remain convinced it isn’t one. And having that label published will make it much easier to explain to others what my disabilities are.

  3. Given that Asperger’s is 99% self-diagnosed and a badge of honor among certain geek circles, I’m glad to hear it.

    (Nothing against people with autism, but geeks have been making a joke of the disorder, trivializing it with the false impression that it gives them super geek cred. “Just like Einstein and Newton!” –who, like them, were never diagnosed with it.)

  4. I’d MUCH rather tell somebody, such a prospective employer, that I’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome than Autism.

    They’re likely to be entirely misinformed about either of the two (even/especially if they’ve been reading about them online), but Asperger’s is by far the friendlier of the two designations.

  5. This change makes sense for clinicians, but it would increase the denial of adults who refuse to get help for AS. There are 3 undiagnosed adults in my family; the amount of denial is unbelievable. It’s a Mess. How about a more positive name, like Einstein – Newton Spectrum of Goodness (ENSG)? ;)

    Being in a close relationship with an AS adult is described in several books like The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome, and Loving Mr. Spock.

    Understatement of the day: “…this disorder has profound effects on the family members and others in close contact. It is the spouses, siblings, children, and co-workers of those affected with Asperger’s Syndrome that experience the emotional pain, especially when the correct diagnosis has been delayed until relatively late in adulthood.” – – Families of Adults Affected by Asperger’s Syndrome

  6. To Anon#3’s valid point about providing greater parity: If in some places there is no programming or coverage at all, perhaps the change in definition will be helpful. Where we live, they lump elementary-age kids with Asperger’s in with all other ASD kids and give them the same programming, which I’m not sure is beneficial either. I haven’t seen a really good solution yet.

    But names have meaning, and this is an identity issue for a lot of people. It’s been hard enough for my daughter to accept “Asperger’s”; I haven’t figured out how I tell her that it’s just going away and she will henceforth be “autistic.” “Psychiatrists just make all this crap up anyway” is about the best I’ve come up with so far, but it’s not exactly the message I think the DSM committee is trying to send.

  7. they do this so the ADA is not applicable to us. This way nobody has to treat their brightest people justly. this is just more of the same. Hundreds of years of marginalizing those who see what you did there. Film at eleven.

  8. asperger and autistic disorder has at least this 1 fundamental difference – ppl with asperger’s can feel the need or desire to make friends/relationship; ppl with autistic disorder don’t want anything to do with the ‘outside world’.

    Grouping asperger’s & autistic disorder into one bigger category would only probably decease the likelihood of service approval by insurance agencies – because each person’s needs would then have to be evaluated by the insurance company’s ‘developmental experts’.

    In the bay area, Kaiser Permanente has 2 ‘autism spectrum disorder clinics’ which are known in local mental health field that they are making a lot of ‘autism’ diagnoses, even if the children are clearly not autistic or even aspergers…

    Why would I know? I work for an organization that make diagnosis for the state of California.

  9. I guess it’s time they do the same with the AD(H)D diagnosis — and admit that it probably is everybody else that has this “attention deficit”.

    Tom in Germany (ADD-diagnosed 52 yr old)

    p.s.: My suggestion is NOT meant as a joke.

  10. Guess I’ll have to find a new excuse to act like an asshole. Hey, who left this copy of The Fountainhead here?

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