As of right now, it is estimated that two in every 10,100 children are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. However, next year, they might not be Asperger’s at all.
How is that possible? Let’s take a look.
Currently The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, known as the DSM-IV, has Asperger’s Syndrome classified as a separate diagnosis under the Autism umbrella. Simply stated, people with Asperger’s have a more typical language development than those classified as Autistic. However, the American Psychiatric Association has proposed new criteria that would eliminate Asperger’s as a separate diagnosis from the DSM-IV. The proposal consolidates the diagnosis under the single term of Autism with varying levels of severity.
The idea has sent people close to the topic into a frenzy. Parents, doctors, therapists, advocacy groups and of course people diagnosed with Asperger’s are confused and scared as to what this might mean in the future.
Asperger’s was not included in the DSM until 1994 when, at that time, it was noted that there were a whole group of people who didn’t fit into the Autism category that clearly demonstrated impairments in “social interactions, communication and restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities” (DMS-IV). The disorder is named after Hans Asperger, a Viennese pediatrician who, in 1944, first described a set of behavior patterns apparent in some of his patients who were mostly males. Asperger noticed that although these boys had normal intelligence and language development, they had severely impaired social skills, were unable to communicate effectively with others, and had poor coordination. People who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s are concerned that there will be an increase in demeaning or condescending attitudes from others, due to the fact that most people correlate the term Autism with a person who is unable to independently care for themselves. With the absence of a label or a term, comes the increase of confusion.
The diagnosis of people with spectrum disorders has been skyrocketing lately and some researchers think the changes might narrow the criteria enough to curb the rising tide of autism diagnoses.
Asperger’s syndrome is currently considered a form of autism. People with Asperger’s have normal or above-normal intelligence and sometimes are referred to as having mild, or high-functioning, autism.
So what is the big problem?
Well, those with Asperger’s syndrome currently receive services, from schools, doctors and therapists under that diagnosis. If Asperger’s syndrome no longer exists, those services might no longer be available to them. There is the possibility however, that if the label really is removed, that those who are currently labeled as having Asperger’s syndrome may apply to see if they qualify for Level 1, 2 or 3 on the Autism spectrum, which is what the American Psychiatric Association has proposed with the new label.
So for now, we wait and wonder what will happen to Asperger’s.