All opinions and views stated on this site belong solely to Corina Lynn Becker, and do not represent or reflects the views and opinions of any organizations, unless otherwise specified.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

DSM Merging the ASD

Kev, of Left Brain/Right Brain, asks this question:

The recent article in the New York Times concerning the possibility of the ‘vanishing’ of Aspergers Syndrome from the next version of the DSM (due in 2012) only asks two people with the AS diagnosis (Temple Grandin and Ari Ne’eman) for their opinions. Nothing wrong with that as such but I’d like to hear what the AS community at large thinks.
and then gives his own opinion:

the AS community isn’t disappearing, its just finally taking its rightful place alongside the others in the autism comunity.

I recently discussed this issue with my mother. She's a high school teacher, and while she understands my concerns and agrees that Asperger is Autism, she has explained that, as a teacher, the label has been a useful tool for her to figure out what can and can't a student do, and what accommodations to make in the classroom. I suggested to her that perhaps then more descriptive IEPs may be in order, so that the knowledge behind the label will not be lost in the (highly likely, yet unconfirmed) merge. With that scenario, she agreed that then there would be very little point in keeping Asperger's as a term in the DSM.

I support merging Asperger's with the rest of the ASD, as it simplifies classification and eliminates confusion and potential discrimination.

One of the concerns that has been brought to my attention about this issue is that if Asperger Syndrome is no longer in the DSM, that all the hard work of raising awareness will be wasted, and that people with the diagnosis of Asperger's will fall through the cracks again.

However, I think because of the awareness that has been made about Asperger Syndrome can be shifted to be about ASD. Also, the wider range of diagnostic criteria means that people previously diagnosed as Asperger Syndrome will be recognized as being ASD, and thus will not fall into the cracks as before. Of course, this is under the impression that appropriate services for all ranges of the spectrum and all ages, from childhood to adult, are available. If those services aren't available and implemented properly, then yes, people will fall through the cracks.

Which needs to be put into place even if Asperger Syndrome isn't removed from the DSM.


  1. Excellent post, Corina. But in my opinion, that's small potatoes compared to what we face here.

  2. True, I'm not digging into the more nastier parts about this. (currently because it's the busy time of the school year for me; tonnes of assignments to do, with same-day duedates)

    I should have posted this at the top; this is mainly the comment I posted on lbrb.

  3. Corina, the problem with the utility argument is that both Asperger's and autism indicate ability only at the time of the diagnosis, and those abilities are not the same even if the people receive the same diagnosis. How able a person is and what accommodations would benefit that person cannot be predicted or determined by the diagnosis. I have two children who received the same diagnosis. One is mainstreamed and the other is in a segregated classroom. Their IEPs reflect their individual needs, and the competencies of their different schools.

    Maintaining Asperger's for the sake of making unfounded generalizations is not a good argument in favor of keeping the label. IEPs are supposed to be individualized to the student's needs; otherwise, they serve no purpose. Or, I should say, they serve no benefit to the child.

  4. That indeed is a problem with the diagnosis. Something that I've pointed out to her about. I didn't really go into our rather long discussion/argument, but I wanted to acknowledge her perspective of the issue. She fully accepts that she's using a stereotype that may not necessarily be true, but gives her a very general idea of what to expect.

    As I said, she agreed that more descriptive IEPs would most likely eliminate her need to use the label.

  5. The DSM is a (indeed, "the") tool used by insurers to figure out what they will or won't pay for. Hence the lack of taxonomy decried in the OpEd piece. So, in a way, this could allow people to access more services than they would otherwise be allowed. Anyother use - IEPs, for example, really is rather prejudicial, when you get down to it.


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