The autism spectrum is a diverse set of related neurodevelopmental disorders whose definition has only evolved over time and through decades of research. For many years, Asperger’s syndrome was a part of that spectrum. With the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), Asperger’s was re-classified as separate from the autism spectrum. Despite this change, the two are still closely related and this blog post, we’ll discuss the connections between Asperger’s and the autism spectrum.
The Impact of Asperger’s
Asperger’s is a neurodevelopmental disorder defined by challenges with nonverbal communication and social interaction. Much like other disorders within the autism spectrum, it’s exact cause and roots are still unknown, and its inheritability and connection to genetics is constantly being researched and investigated. The symptoms of Asperger’s can be varied in severity but typically include:
- Challenges with social interactions and communication, especially with social cues
- Restricted interests and a strong desire for uniformity
- Laser focus and attention to detail
- Sensitivity to sensory stimulation
- Physical clumsiness
- Related anxiety or depression
Much of these symptoms are the same or similar to those experienced by children and adults with autism, hence Asperger’s initial inclusion in the spectrum. These symptoms, strengths, and challenges help characterize Asperger’s, and those with it consider it a strong part of their identity and lifestyle.
The Separation of Asperger’s and Autism
Keeping social acceptance for people with disabilities in mind, it’s important to consider how they identify with their diagnosis. For many, their diagnosis helps them seek representation within their communities and the ideal support needed to build independence and a fulfilling life. When Asperger’s was a part of the spectrum, many people found acceptance within a much larger community.
Preliminary studies and surveys show that the separation has been met with a very mixed reaction from the community. Some see it as an opportunity to set boundaries between the autism spectrum and Asperger’s, which could open the door to further awareness and education on the individual disorders that make up the spectrum. Others see it as another potentially confusing change to a part of their identity they’ve known their whole lives.
Either way, the connection between Asperger’s and autism is still relevant and deeply connected. Both can impact our children’s lives in various ways, and with behavioral therapies like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, those children can navigate the challenges their symptoms pose with plenty of support and confidence.
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