It might seem a little odd to say that I nearly jumped up and kissed the educational psychologist who diagnosed my son with Asperger’s Syndrome. But my relief at having a label – finally – was soon dissipated by the clinical psychologist who told me that the ed psych’s diagnosis wouldn’t be recognised by the NHS because of their different methods of evaluation. A short while later, a paediatrician told me that the term Asperger’s Syndrome would soon be defunct in any case.
The media reported on this yesterday, confirming that AS has been dropped by the American psychiatrists’ manual (where it first appeared in 1994) and replaced by ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’. I don’t like it. The autistic spectrum is so broad that many on it would not be able to identify with many others. ‘Being autistic’ is not generally seen as a good thing, but ‘having Asperger’s’ does has some positive associations. It seems a shame to to de-classify the very people who value un-ambiguous and clear-cut classification.
And what of Asperger himself? He worked with children who he described as suffering from “autistic psychopathy” in the 1940′s in Austria, defending them in the face of Nazi eugenics policies as individuals who would grow into over-achieving and invaluable adults. It wasn’t until 1991, eleven years after his death, that his work was translated and published; AS became a recognised diagnosis in 1992.
When I told my son the news he said “but Asperger’s isn’t a disorder; it’s what makes me intelligent”. Enough said.