Adults on the spectrum are really getting up in arms about the DSM-V.
Oh, you say you haven't heard? They APA is proposing to do away with Asperger's Syndrome.
Now that's a short life for a disorder. Asperger's, its tomb stone will read; 1994-2012...ish. Because let's be honest, we don't know for sure when the new DSM will actually come out.
But people sure as heck have latched onto the name. Aspies (shudder). Aspergians. Call them what you will. Personally, I refuse to call them anything but people with Asperger's (Syndrome). I think changing the name of a disabling disorder to make it cute and fun is ridiculousness. I feel the same way about people calling diabetes "'betes" or "the 'betes," as kids and counselors used to do at camp.
Now in case you're shouting and flailing at your computer, "But you can't speak on this subject! You don't even have Asperger's!" Well, if you want to be very technical, no I don't. But my neuropsych's office isn't all that technical. Rather than basing a diagnosis on early development (i.e., taking into consideration early language acquisition or acquisition of self-help skills), they look at the adult's current language skills. And now, I very much fit the bill of Asperger's, so that's my diagnosis at that office.
Now that I've got all the preliminary stuff out of the way, let me go on to explain my thinking about the recategorization of ASDs in the DSM-V.
Point 1: Asperger's and autistic disorder have much more in common than not.
Point 2: The age at which a child develops language or given self-help skills is an extremely poor indicator of that person's command of language or self-help skills as an adult.
Point 3: I keep hearing adults with Asperger's who argue something like this: "But I don't want to be lumped in with them." Them being "low-functioning autistics." Just as I do not believe in "Us vs. Them" in terms of autistic and not autistic, I (perhaps unsurprisingly) dislike even more the proposal of diving up the autism spectrum on an Us vs. Them basis.
Point 4: Not all people with Asperger's are more independent, more intelligent, more social, more... you name it... than people with autistic disorder. I know many people with Asperger's who can't hold down a job, carry on a conversation, or graduate from high school. I know people with autistic disorder who supprt themselves financially, live completely independently, and hold a college degree.
Point 5: If someone is that bent on dividing up the spectrum, then why pick early language acquisition and self help skills? Why not:
- absence or presence of mental retardation based on standardized IQ tests?
- hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli?
- level of verbosity as an adult?
- ability to live independently or the lack thereof?
- absence of presence of early regression?
Point 6: Who honestly wants to tell anyone that they have assburgers? Suddenly, that Aspie thing isn't sounding quite so bad...
I don't think that we've hit the nail on the head with ASDs as of yet. Now, I have not thoroughly researched the topic, but I'm leaning toward the idea that there is not one autism. Rather, I'm wondering if there are not various autisms.... environmentally-induced, vaccine-induced, allergy-induced, prematurity-induced, etc.
But until we can figure all of this out scientifically, and from that I think we are many years away, we have to stick with the idea of syndromes, or a collection of symptoms, regardless of cause. Because we can't differentiate based on cause, all we have is the results, the symptoms, by which to diagnose. People who, more or less, have the same symptoms have the same syndrome or disorder.
And I think autism spectrum disorder is the best we can do with what we have.