Is it Aspergers Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Both?

Classification of Aspergers Syndrome


What is Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger's Syndrome Autism Spectrum Disorders

photo credit: Beverly & Pack on Flickr

high functioning autism

Asperger Syndrome is one of the autism spectrum disorders. What are autism spectrum disorders? They are also called pervasive developmental disorders in the DSM-IV. These conditions are characterized by challenges/deficits of social interaction and communication.

Autism spectrum disorders begin in infancy or childhood. These conditions are not ‘cured’, as some might think. They are really just a different way of thinking and viewing the world. However, the challenges that arise in communication and social interaction should not be minimized, either.

According to Wikipedia,
ASD, in turn, is a subset of the broader autism phenotype (BAP), which describes individuals who may not have ASD but do have autistic-like traits, such as social deficits.[10] Of the other four ASD forms, autism is the most similar to AS in signs and likely causes but its diagnosis requires impaired communication and allows delay in cognitive development; Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder share several signs with autism but may have unrelated causes; and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) is diagnosed when the criteria for a more specific disorder are unmet.[11]

The Aspergers Syndrome Autism Spectrum Disorder Debate

Here is where the debate over the exact classification for Aspergers (AS) begins. The current classification of autism spectrum disorder, according to the researchers who are updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (coming out in May 20130, does not entirely show the true nature of autism spectrum disorders.

The plan is to cut the name of Aspergers Disorder, and put it under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

There will be a focus on levels of severity, versus on the exact name of Aspergers.

This is a very controversial move, and researchers and doctors working on the manual still have not decided whether to call it a disorder or a syndrome.

(Personally, I like syndrome a lot better. While we don’t want to minimize the challenges that come with the autism spectrum, it’s too easy to miss all of the positive characteristics of the autism spectrum by calling it a disorder instead of a spectrum).

Here are some helpful articles representing aspects of the Asperger’s versus Autism Spectrum debate. I hope you’ll find them helpful in learning more about the great debate as to how to best classify Aspergers Sydnrome:

Autism Versus Aspergers: The Great Label Debate. This is a three-part series written by Gavin Bollard at the Life With Aspergers blog. He summarizes the debate, and then gives the pros and cons of the debate.

CNN writes a very up close and personal angle in this story about the debate in their story, Move to merge Asperger’s, autism in diagnostic manual stirs debate.


Ok, so this next article is not exactly related to the whole debate, but gives an even more thought provoking twist on the whole advocacy group community. It’s written by John Elder Robinson, author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, and it’s titled, The “Cure” for Autism, and the Fight Over It.


I hope you find this overall summary of Asperger’s Syndrome: its classification, its facts, and the great label debate helpful. Be sure to let me know your thoughts 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.

Are you tired of feeling alone, like you're the only one in this world? Please join the Thrive with Aspergers Community to connect with others just like you!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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  • T.K. Goforth @Music Education

    Hello, Stephen! Wow! I have been reading many pages of your blog, and it has been a great education for me. I have several friends with children with Aspergers or Autism, and it’s great to understand ADS a bit better. Thank you for your thorough explanations, as well as the controversy around it. I can understand both sides of the coin. Thank you again — I will be sharing this, as well as coming back to visit!

    God bless!

  • @TK, thank you for the encouraging comments 🙂 I’m glad you have found this site helpful for better understanding individuals on the autism spectrum. I hope to foster mutual understanding between NT’s (neurotypicals) and Aspies (those with Aspergers syndrome) through my writing, so I’m glad that you are able to increase your understanding here.