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November 5, 2009

Including Aspergers with Autism

 The New York Times recently printed an article about the diagnosis of asperger syndrome and how the editors of the DSM V(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, version V or 5) are considering having one broad diagnosis of autism that will include it as well as PDD-NOS(Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified) and High Functioning Autism.
This is a step in the right direction. For years there has been an underlying division between classics and aspies, this is not usually verbalized, but as a parent I have noticed it from other parents as well as teachers I have come in contact with.

Most people I meet generally consider asperger's to be autism anyway. Usually they have never seen someone with severe autism. One reason is because people who have children that are severely affected do not come out. Their children are in special programs or homes. I also credit this to the media focus on the what I like to call the "cuter side of autism," you know; the precocious, hyperlexic, mini genius portrayal of autism that tends to exclude some of the other aspects that many parents may deal with like; feces smearing, clothing stripping, aggression, regression and elopement.

I also notice that non verbal individuals and those with more challenging behaviors are assumed to be mentally retarded and uninstructable. Many of the supplementary programs and groups tend to be more open to those who are verbal and have less challenging behaviors. My son has been rejected from groups that claim to work with kids with autism. How is that? They only work with kids who are verbal.

On the other hand people diagnosed with aspergers have to prove their disability because of their high functioning. Social awkwardness and anxiety is hard prove particularly if you have a great capacity to learn and can adequately communicate.

Parents are just as biased as the greater community. There are some parents who do not want their asperger children to be associated with the "other" autistics even going as far as not using the autism spectrum to describe their child. I find all of this to be unsettling. Because my kids span the spectrum, I can tell you a diagnosis is a label. It does no more to solve the problems or answer the questions, its just different behaviors. Will it be easier for my daughter to fit in because she will be able to hold a conversation with others versus my son who is non verbal? Yes, but what then happens when she starts crying inappropriately because she misinterpreted what someone was saying to her? Won't people still think she is just as weird as my son who likes to yell up and down the aisles at the grocery store?
I focus on changing societies perception of autism and creating meaningful inclusion in the community. Therefore it will not matter if you have Asperger's, PDD or Autism, you can still have a meaningful life in a place that accepts you for who you are Uniting the diagnosis is one small step to getting people to focus on more on functioning and behavior and less on labels.

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