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Asperger’s or Autism?

The DSM-V changed the classification of Asperger's syndrome to exclusively autism.

Nick Hughes

Opinion Editor

The autism spectrum features many levels. One such level used to be categorized as Asperger’s. Asperger’s originally defined as by the DSM-IV a, “Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following: marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction. It is now considered autism. Which is defined as, “Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history. I believe that this change in distinction is the wrong way to go about defining what autism is. There are just three levels now. Levels one through three and it is not enough.

To me, being on the spectrum is more than just a diagnosis, it is a way of life. When I found out I had Asperger’s Syndrome, I felt as if a weight was lifted off my shoulders. The diagnosis became a way for me to combat myself: Combating my anxiety and depression that was caused by the discomfort of being around people. My woes did not end, however, and it took extensive therapeutic and self-forgiveness for me to get to a point where I became comfortable around people.

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What I find disturbing about the change in diagnosis criteria is, according to experts, I do not have Asperger’s. The designation of Asperger’s is no longer a classification for autism diagnoses. I learned this from my therapist who is affiliated with The Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (CADD). This does not make sense to me at all. Autism is a spectrum disorder and every case are different from one another. Some of those on the spectrum are good at math, while others are atrocious at it. The same can be said for language and reading skills. Everyone with autism is united in a sense by having autism, but by taking away the specific classifications the DSM takes away individuality from us.

I know that my capabilities in memorization are vastly different than that of someone else who has autism, but another person with autism might be amazing at reading maps. Whatever the case, those with autism all have a unique gift. When I used to classify myself as someone with autism, I specified Asperger’s, and I still do try to designate Asperger’s as my diagnosis.

People with autism have a hard time; I can attest to that fact, but I want to know why I cannot be designated as having Asperger’s? It may seem like an immature thing to say, but look at it this way: Asperger’s made me feel unique to myself. Before my diagnosis, I felt like nothing; worthless and in the way. Asperger’s gave me a way to explain why I was the way I was. I have come a long way in terms of social interaction. That is the challenge of having Asperger’s, though, and it is a challenge that I relish having now because I did not have that as a teenager. It sounds weird, but I never got to experience being a teenager. I never got to be normal. Asperger’s took that from me, and now Asperger’s is gone.

Losing the designation of Asperger’s was tough for me, but I can understand why it was done. The DSM-V wanted an umbrella term for what a lot of people were experiencing. I think that Asperger’s should still have the singular definition. Those who have autism need that little boost; at least those who are accepting of what they have.

With having autism instead of Asperger’s, I feel depressed again and that is a horrible way to feel, and if I am being honest, it’s tough on you and is cruel in how it treats you. Having autism or Asperger’s, whatever it is called, is hard. I hated losing the designation of having Asperger’s. I felt special back then, but now I feel like I’m just apart of the crowd of people labeled autistic. My individual merit has been taken from me with this. Having social issues makes it hard to voice these concerns that I have.

I feel disturbed that the people at the DSM never consulted those who have autism / Asperger’s. I know we are not experts on what autism is, but we are experts on having autism.

Lamenting this is causing me distress. I want to reiterate: those who have Asperger’s have Asperger’s. We do not just have autism. If you want to be labeled as someone with autism, that is your choice. Do what is the most comfortable for you. I want the choice though; to say Asperger’s or autism. Now I do not have it. Having Asperger’s made me unique and now I just have autism. I am still unique, but my identity is fractured. It is inconsiderate of the DSM-V to take away my right to identify as having Asperger’s, not just autism. There is more to us than autism, and we are able to express that in so many ways. People with Asperger’s and autism are creative, intelligent and motivated, and I think it is important to create an identity for people who used to have Asperger’s and now do not.