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January 2011



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Elizabeth Brown

April 17, 3:52 PM

The aspie culture has contributed to squelching the stigma of autism. Undoubtedly, aspies are reeling about the proposed elimination of Asperger’s Syndrome from the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders).

Perhaps it’s the term “disorder” that aspies reject. Aspies tend to view themselves in terms of their gifts. Yet, auties, too, are now  praising their uniqueness. The changes drafted by the American Psychiatric Association to the DSM-V, include a folding of Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD-NOS into what’s called an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Higher functioning autism (PDD-NOS and Asperger’s Syndrome) since its 1994 inclusion into the DSM- IV has broadened the spectrum of autism and our understanding of it.

Roy Richard Grinker, author of Unstrange Minds Remapping the World of Autism, in his op-ed Chaos out of Disorder(New York Times 2/10), supports the potential changes arguing we no longer need Asperger’s to remove the stigma from autism. It is “fading fast” as Grinker’s daughter, Isabel, diagnosed with high functioning autism, attests: “My strength is that I have autism.”

Autism understood as a spectrum eliminates the risk of stigmatizing autism in terms of lower or higher functioning. Grinker’s daughter, Isabel, for instance, identifies her autism in terms of her strengths with art, animals and music. The deficits of social impairments and repetitive behaviors are a shared feature among all auties (high and low).

The deficits in both aspie and autie are pronounced at different points of a child’s life and are often asynchronously offset by strengths and marked times of regression. The degree of Interventions often determine the degree of deficits over a life span. Environmental factors also contribute to outcome.

Furthermore, later drug addictions and co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety complicate matters and result in regressive behaviors and dependency.

Autism, as Grinker implies, is complex and “…  a spectrum with an enormous range” and, therefore, according to Grinker, who shares an anthropological perspective as Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University, “…not as neat and orderly as categorizing species.” The notion that Asperger’s Syndrome is mild and not as debilitating as classic autism is what Grinker would call “misleading.”

We tend to trust that intelligence is fixed rather than variable. Due to splintered areas of strength, Kids on the autism spectrum can present with an uneven cognitive profile. For instance, a child diagnosed with autism might score below average range for intelligence, but have unusual mathematical skills. Another child might show exceptional visual spatial skills.

Additionally, higher intelligence associated with milder autism (Asperger’s) does not necessarily equate to greater success. The presumption that a child with mild autism or Asperger’s Syndrome with an above average or higher intelligence has a better prognosis, results in a lax attitude and hinders badly needed services.

A nonverbal child measuring lower on a standard I.Q. test, with the right interventions and advocacy, can grow into a higher functioning and verbose child that is indistinguishable from a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. Isabel, once diagnosed with a more classic form of autism due to language deficits, would, today, be diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome, according to Grinker.

Read in Full:  http://www.examiner.com/x-20605-Public-School-Reform-Examiner~y2010m4d17-Autisms-enfolding-of-aspies-as-one-spectrum?cid=channel-rss-Education_and_Schools

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