Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website   Read more about this blog.
Posted: December 3rd, 2012
Asperger’s no more?

That’s a bit misleading, as if I am indicating that there’s been some cure found for Asperger’s Syndrome. But now that I have your attention, the real story is that Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer going to be included in the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), the most recent revision that comes out in May, published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM is the bible of mental disorders. And according to the APA, Asperger’s Syndrome will now be listed under Autism Spectrum Disorder and not have its own entry.

Asperger’s disorder, generally stated, is the impairment in social interaction coupled with repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, activities and interests. Often those with Asperger’s have high intelligence and vast knowledge on narrow subjects but lack social skills.

What’s the big deal, you might be asking? It’s not like Asperger’s will cease to exist, right?

Well, opponents to the change worry about the implications, which could be far reaching. DSM is widely used by practitioners, but also by insurance companies “to determine what conditions are considered abnormal, which treatments should be covered by insurance companies, and which warrant special educational services,” according to a recent article by TIME magazine.

Consequently, changes to the content of the DSM have major social implications and autism advocates oppose the change because they are concerned that families “affected by Asperger’s will lose critical educational and other services. The revision will diminish clarity of diagnoses, both for research purposes and personal understanding.”

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3 comments on “Asperger’s no more?

  1. April Honeywell on said:

    As for the change, it is beyond stupid. My son has Asperger’s and this change that they are proposing could affect his education and his health care coverage. I highly question the people that are making this decision and how they are qualified to do so.

  2. They are simply going to have to come up with categories for Asperger’s, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).

    I have felt for a long time that lumping kids with these other disorders under the autism umbrella does not really benefit them, as they need services that are different than those that a child with traditional (Kanner Type) autism would need. Kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder are being diagnosed with autism, just to get services. It is clear that the 1 in 88 figure of kids with “autism” is overinflated because of a category that is too broad.

    For many people who are unaware of what Asperger’s Syndrome is, they are under the mistaken impression that it is just a mild case of autism. It’s not. The defining characteristic which separates the two, initially, is speech before age two. Kids with autism typically do not have speech or have very limited speech, and kids with Asperger’s many times have a condition called Hyperlexia, which is a tremendous vocabulary at a very young age. This is just one example of the many ways that autism and Asperger’s differ.

    What I feel is wrong here is that they have not listed these conditions under a category that fits them or made a separate category. What if we just dropped melanoma because it didn’t fit with other cancers?

    There are going to be a lot of kids denied services until they get Asperger’s Syndrome, CDD and PDD-NOS back into the mental health diagnostic criteria. However, right now, in many states, it is nearly impossible to get services to cover these conditions without simultaneously diagnosing the child with autism, as programs and insurers dropped Asperger’s some time ago.

    Hopefully, those who are advocates will not stand for this.

  3. It seems to me that if kids with Asperger’s are having difficulty getting treatment, then “lumping” Asperger’s with autism disorder possibly could make finding treatment easier and insurance companies more apt to pay for the treatment. Another commentator stated that insurance companies had dropped Asperger’s “some time ago”. But they do still pay for autism. With the new DSM, Asperger’s is a part of autism, so insurers will have little excuse not to pay for the treatment.

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