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Medicine Science

No More "Asperger's Syndrome" 602

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the trolls-run-out-of-burgers dept.
cstacy writes "The American Psychiatric Association is dropping Asperger's Syndrome from the upcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) Its symptoms will be included under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder, which includes everything from severe autism such as children who do not talk or interact, to milder forms of autism. Asperger's disorder is impairment in social interaction and repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, activities and interests, without significant delay in language or cognitive development. Often the person has high intelligence and vast knowledge on narrow subjects but lacks social skills. DSM-5 comes out in May and will be the first major rewrite in 19 years."
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No More "Asperger's Syndrome"

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  • by alienzed (732782) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:07AM (#42165791) Homepage
    No more Aspergers, Pluto is not a planet, life starts at conception, etc... Labelling something only help perpetrate the misunderstandings surrounding the very real issues. We need to stop calling things stuff and start actually understanding them in meaningful ways.
  • Met them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:21AM (#42165875)
    I have met people with Asperger's and I have met people with Autism and I have met both treated and mostly untreated. People with these two diseases are wildly separate in functionality and the ability to function. I would no more say that Asperger's is in the spectrum of autism than I would say freckles are in the spectrum of melanoma. Technically it might be correct that they both have root similarities but a useless categorization. The treated people with Asperger's that I have witnessed have become shockingly functional human beings achieving at a level well in the top 1% while having few interpersonal issues. Whereas the best I have seen with autisim are people who marginally function in most areas of societal interaction and usually at best over develop one or two areas such as piano. So it seems to me that the strategy with people with autism is to help them cope with life whereas with Asperger's the goal should be to give them a few extra social skills so that they can thrive. Like melanoma and freckles with one your focus is to keep the person from becoming dead, with the other your goal is to find a good sun hat.

    I am willing to bet that there are quite a few Asperger's programmers out there but very few autistic programmers; testers maybe.
  • Disorder my ass... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ipquickly (1562169) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:25AM (#42165901) Homepage

    Granted, there are many people who view this as a disorder. But there are also those of us who view it as a gift and view the challenges and the setbacks that it has presented as experiences that have had an extremely positive impact on our lives. While I sympathize with those who have trouble dealing with it, this is who I am and I would never want this to change.

    I wold never want to be labeled as someone with a disorder, having a minimal to non-existent social life is fine by me. This is just putting a negative label on people who already have a lot of social stigma to deal with.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:45AM (#42166049)

    > Why does it matter if the label changes

    In theory it shouldn't, but as Yogi Bera said, "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is". Caregivers tend to grab on to the labels assigned to their patients in order to simplify the task of treatment. In medicine, where there are many (if not the majority) of conditions which have well-defined and well-understood etiologies (and corresponding treatments), this is very useful. In psychiatry and psychology, I'm not so sure.

    As the parent of a child in the spectrum, but not in any common or well-defined position in it, I can assure you, it's an ongoing fight between trying to get your child labelled (in order to qualify for help from insurance, government, and the education system) and preventing said labeling from biasing the treatment of the child towards directions which are not helpful.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:20AM (#42166209)

    As the parent of a child in the spectrum, but not in any common or well-defined position in it, I can assure you, it's an ongoing fight ... preventing said labeling from biasing the treatment of the child towards directions which are not helpful.

    This.

    Exactly this. My brother is a functioning adult who graduated college and is working as a software engineer. He was also diagnosed with Asperger's in elementary school. Treating him as an Asperger's patient does nothing to help him manage it. It's like treating him as a collection of symptoms. But that's not what he is. He's a person with a unique personality, and knowing how to best communicate with him and help him work with others is far easier if you work with him as a person instead of him as a diagnosis.

    The experience inspired my mother, already an early-childhood educator, to get a graduate degree focusing on the treatment of autism spectrum disorders. But all it's done for her is make it harder for her to understand him. The more she learns, the more it seems she looks at him as a collection of symptoms. And she missed out on understanding him as who HE is, not who a person with Asperger's is.

    Lumping Asperger's in with other forms of Autism may not be a mistake. But I feel diagnosing people with the syndrome often does more harm than good. Asperger's is not a disease. People diagnosed with it are not sick, and they do not need a cure. They have unique character traits, just like everyone else in the world does. Working with them and helping them succeed requires understanding their individual personality. And the same is true of the rest of us.

  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:35AM (#42166281)

    Because many of us have at least been accused of having it. Or are "self-diagnosed" as having it. Or were even diagnosed by an actual psychiatrist.

    There's a not-actually-diagnostic Autism Spectrum Quotient [wikipedia.org] test that you can take at Wired [wired.com].

    It might be fun to have a Slashdot poll on the range of results.

  • Re:C'mon, idiots. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlie@hotmaiLIONl.com minus cat> on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:54AM (#42166361) Homepage

    Maybe it's a talent rather than a disorder. /shrug. Discuss.

    Why do people with AS try so hard to insinuate that it isn't a disorder? Sounds very much like insecurity. Personally I view it as a disorder AND a talent, not one or the other.

  • Re:C'mon, idiots. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:59AM (#42166381)

    There's this romantic idea that anyone who is introverted and likes math has Asperger's, therefore Asperger's is cool.

    In the same way that sneezing a couple of times doesn't mean you have a cold, having some level of Asperger's traits doesn't mean you have Asperger's. Actual Asperger's syndrome have several drawbacks that people with the condition have to deal with, like for instance difficulty to do context switching.

  • Re:Met them (Score:4, Interesting)

    by infinitelink (963279) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:17AM (#42166443) Homepage Journal
    Hopefully, being a "nerd" site, this will be taken for what it's worth rather than condemned suddenly and viciously: I know a young man, we'll call him "Tim", who has among the severest forms of autism. Essentially it is a diagnosis of "will never be functional: always need assistance/direction and extreme oversight".

    For whatever reason he was taken from a parent and put with another relative. Something along the lines of "Italian matriarchal type", and she had the old-school, conservative-like prejudices of "practically anything mammalian can be conditioned like Pavlov's dogs" and "things related by blood should be given lots of love", so she did both: when he "misbehaved", he got beatings [youtu.be], and the neural malformation or dysfunction that makes conditioning of behavior hard just meant that the discipline had to be that much more severe; at all other times, though discipline was very stringent, he was very much treated with love too.

    So now the doctors and "experts" haven't a clue why, call him a miracle and mystery, but the guy functions with extreme...normality. He doesn't like to speak: he has both received a communications board (think Steven Hawkings) and been taught sign language, but seems to have something against language itself, and only talks with those he is very, very close to, but otherwise seems completely normal--slower than others yes, but he can get along, go out with people to enjoy himself, whether for a movie or playing put put.

    Of course he really doesn't write, not that people with something against language could even be expected to try, much less people with extreme problems in neural development, but then again, nobody but family and insiders know why it is that he can actually function the way he does.

    Or to summarize, he was viewed as a child with extreme behavior tendencies and a very strong will who had to be broken for his own benefit, and those around him, so that he could benefit from being social with those around him rather than isolated, and it worked. I think this suggest that the problem may lie partially in the "experts" picking-up some of the thinking from the damn social workers in schools and other "professional" fields: "O, Jonny has a syndrome that means he can't behave" (and yes, there is a diagnosis for this: it's also the symptom that portends that good teachers will quit public schools, and yes I have known a few of those too).

    p.s. He is an adult now. Also, I do not say these things lightly: I was beaten--quite unjustly--rather frequently through certain portions of my childhood, by an inconsiderate father, who was often drunk (I ran away too: twice, the second time permanent), and just as mean the next day or days on "residual". I would be beaten over simple and trifling things, and even for things that I was not told were wrong or I shouldn't do, but simply because my father thought they either might make him look bad, or were not in accord with his ideals: also, the guy has few to no ideals and his opinions constantly move and shift: it was unpredictable, could come at any moment for anything, and it was living in hell day to day. There is a significant difference between discipline (for another's good) and that sort of abuse (beating someone with no appreciable reason or intended good, but out of mere anger).
  • Congratulations! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Grismar (840501) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:21AM (#42166647)
    To all who used to claim to suffer from Asperger Syndrome, but are now miraculously cured since calling yourself autistic doesn't quite have that je ne sais quoi. Seriously though, like parents claiming ADHD for there kids to explain troublesome behavior, this has to have been the #1 claim for self-justification of strange social behaviour of awkward netizens. Even if only for that reason, it's good to see it classified as a serious disorder that's actually no fun at all...
  • Re:Damn... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:22AM (#42166653)

    "Aspergers may be on the austisic spectrum, but they're nothing alike in real terms."
    I disagree. I have aspergers and I have 2 children who are both autistic. The are certainly some differences between us, but there is also a lot of similarities. One of the biggest things that we have in common is our low tolerance for difficult and stimulating situations.
    I personally have always felt that aspergers really did fit under the ASD umbrella although it was medically as accepted that way until now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:41AM (#42166739)

    Personally, I've never been too comfortable using the term "Asperger's syndrome" given its history. Dr. Asperger was an Austrian pediatrician who developed a clinical interest in psychiatric disorders. He was the medical director of special education in the University Children's Hospital in Vienna. In 1944 he published a description of what we now call Asperger's syndrome.

    By this point, some alarm bells should be ringing in your head. That's at the end of WWII, in an axis country. Sure enough, they were euthanizing children en mass at that facility. Dr. Asperger's role was to determine which would be allowed to live under the eugenics regulations, and which would be killed. I encourage you to re-read the definition of his syndrome with this context in mind... And lest you think he was saving kids, he never objected to his role and kept his job until he retired in 1970. Furthermore, while history is sketchy on exactly who arranged it, 400 disabled children were killed for research purposes (specifically brain dissection), on the order of a pediatrician at Dr. Asperger's hospital...

    Current research shows that Asperger's and Autism are an arbitrary distinction, which one might expect from the history. Also, Grunya Sukhareva discovered the same thing in Russia 18 years earlier.

    To be fair, much of this is connecting the dots from an unclear historic record. Most of the records were destroyed, hence why Dr. Asperger wasn't executed for war crimes. Of course, maybe he heroically tried to save as many children as possible, but there's no evidence for it and he never made that claim.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @07:24AM (#42167589)

    Eggs and sperm are both alive. Pretending life begins at some point in pregnancy is just hand-waving designed to repress women and ignore the horrors of pregnancies that have gone wrong.

    Do a DNA test on a fetus. Does it have the DNA of the female? Or perhaps the DNA of the male? No? Whose DNA is it then? It's quite obviously a separate member of homo sapiens.

    Now if you want to argue that it's not a "person" or individual because it has no brain activity, then philosophically you have a reasonable leg to stand on. But from a scientific point of view, the fetus (zygote?) is both a member a homo sapiens and one that is distinct from either the mother or father. This is a testable hypothesis: just do a DNA test.

    This POV does not also does not repress woman. It actually helps females survive. Just ask the Chinese (and Indians), where there's an imbalance in the men-to-woemn rate because of all the abortions of females fetuses.

  • Re:Damn... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erroneus (253617) on Monday December 03, 2012 @07:28AM (#42167605) Homepage

    Speaking as a person who exhibits most of the classical symptoms of Asperger's, I have to agree that it is an affliction, a disorder or disease.

    I am not saying this to garner pity or priviledge... a parking spot would be nice though. I say this because if it is found to be preventable or curable, I would push for it It makes life needlessly difficult. There are simply things I cannot do. Among these include "going with the flow" which might seem like an easy, brainless thing to do, but it's not. The whole notion of merely "fitting it" is an amazingly complex thing which includes self delusion along with the ability to convince others of the same. I have spent more than enough time working it all through.

    In PC terms, Asperger's is a bug in a person's social BIOS. The social BIOS cannot be flashed. It is the bootstrap for all social interactions. Things other people natually seem to understand are completely alien to the Asperger's person. But once we fully understand and appreciate the differences, effective changes can be made. It isn't a fix by any means. But learning to compensate is helpful, but also placing one's self in an environment where it exposes the afflicted to fewer people is also quite helpful.

    I think most of us here on both sides of the general issue are failing to see the objective matters at hand. Asperger's is a disadvantage in most all cases except for when the other side-effects might appeat to be an advantage. We often associate specific mental abilities/capacities as "gifts" associated with the condition. This is not always the case and especially as the generally accepted autistics out there are not all idiot-savants.

    Instead of identifying things, we tend to want to label things with words which do not have as universal a meaning as we think. This problem is identified by the arguments collapsing into a discussion about definitions of words. It is a problem of language and of social politics.

    Asperger's is an advantage to me sometimes. I can disregard my emotional components to see the facts of the matters I observe. I don't always see all of the facts available at all times -- I have a limited capacity just like everyone else. But I have less propensity to fill in the gaps with belief and unsupported ideas.(Consider when you were a very young child... did you understand why girls and boys should dislike each other? I never did. I never saw cause. Go back in time and see which side of such questions you fell on... do you even remember?)

  • Re:Antisocial (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday December 03, 2012 @09:27AM (#42168375)

    It's not that people with Asperger's are anti-social. In fact, many with Asperger's *WANT* to be social. We just don't know how. (Yes, I have Asperger's as does my son.) Think of it as if you suddenly landed on an alien planet with strange and complex customs and social norms. You would likely find simple things in this world funny, but others wouldn't see why. You would commit social blunders that even a "normal" child born in the alien world wouldn't do. Over time, you might be able to slowly learn how to blend in socially, but it would be a chore. You'd constantly have to remind yourself just what to do in each situation.

    Merely remembering them isn't enough. You need to remember and put them into effect on a split second basis. You could manage it, and might even appear "normal", for periods of time, but it would be taxing and you'd need downtime to relax. So you'd be constantly torn between "want to socialize" and "socializing is hard and tiring."

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