6 Questions You Need To Ask About Aspergers Autism

Where Did "Aspergers" Go?

The Aspergers Autism Mystery Explained

autism aspergersMaybe you’ve noticed by now that the term “Aspergers” isn’t used as often as in the past.

Often you’ll hear the terms aspergers autism used interchangeably.

As of October 2014, the American Psychiatric Association changed updated its diagnostic manual, and effectively discarded the term “Aspergers.”

In this article, I’ll explain what happened to the term to help you better understand the recent changes.

What is the DSM-5?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the 2013 update to the American Psychiatric Association‘s (APA) classification and diagnostic tool. In the United States the DSM serves as a universal authority for psychiatric diagnosis.

Source – Wikipedia

What Happened To The Term, “Aspergers”?

new autism definition

Aspergers, along with the other types of autism, is considered to be a spectrum.

While I don’t agree with the term “disorder”, the DSM-5 now calls autism “autism spectrum disorder.”

The infographic to the left helps us see that Aspergers, classic autism, and pervasive developmental disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) all fall under this new term.

What Are the New Criteria For Autism Spectrum Disorder?

In order to be diagnosed with autism, you must show persistent challenges in the following two areas:

  1.  Persistent social communication and social interaction difficulties

For example:

Difficulty accurately understanding other’s social and emotional states

Difficulty knowing how to respond to others’ according to the “unwritten rules” of society

(Read more about social/emotional reciprocity in this article from My Aspergers Child.)

2.  Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior

This may include:

  • Specialized interests
  • Needing to adhere to specific routines
  • Experiencing stress when interests and routines cannot be followed

What Changes To The Diagnosis of Autism Were Made?

According to this resource:

  1. There are no more subcategories, or “types” of autism: The terms Asperger syndrome, PDD-NOS, childhood disintegrative disorder and autistic disorder are all folded into the broader term, “autism spectrum disorder.”
  2. Previously, autism challenges were grouped into three domains: social impairment, language/communication impairment and repetitive/restricted behaviors.  Now, “a diagnosis will require a person to exhibit three deficits in social communication and at least two symptoms in the category of restricted range of activities/repetitive behaviors. Within the second category, a new symptom will be included: hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment.”  (Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About DSM-5)
  3. In the past, autism was only diagnosed in childhood.  Now, it can be diagnosed at any age.
  4. “In addition to the diagnosis, each person evaluated will also be described in terms of any known genetic cause (e.g. fragile X syndrome, Rett syndrome), level of language and intellectual disability and presence of medical conditions such as seizures, anxiety, depression, and/or gastrointestinal (GI) problems.”  (Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About DSM-5)
  5. The DSM-5 researchers added “a new category called Social Communication Disorder (SCD). This will allow for a diagnosis of disabilities in social communication without the presence of repetitive behavior.”  (Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About DSM-5)

What About Levels of Severity?

Check out the table below.

autism levels of severity


Photo credit: looking glass: stevebp; Infographic – Pinterest; Levels of Severity – Marcia Hewitt

In Conclusion:

The change to the term “Aspergers” is a mixed bag.  Many have lamented the loss of the term.  However, if you were diagnosed Aspergers, you can still use that term!  It’s still recognized.  It’s just that, going forward, Aspergers will not be used for new clients diagnosed with autism.

Check out John Elder Robison’s article, Letting Go of Asperger’s: Not So Fast for an insider’s wise and balanced perspective on this whole matter.

I struggle with the medical terminology that classifies autism spectrum as a “disorder.”  I prefer to think about ability and disability.

I urge non autistic partners, spouses, and therapists to read Cynthia Kim’s many articles for her unique take on autism Aspergers.

I don’t know how many researchers who worked on the DSM-5 themselves are autistic, but I’ve got a feeling that if any of the researchers were autistic, they were in the minority.

How important it is, therefore, for you and I who are not autistic, to learn from those who are.

Photo credit: looking glass: stevebp; Infographic – Pinterest; Levels of Severity – Marcia Hewitt

What are your thoughts?  Comment below!

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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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