Back when my son had his autism diagnosis, the term “Asperger’s” was in common usage. The term conjures up the idea of a little professor. An Asperger’s child has specific and narrow interests and talks non-stop about their favourite subject. Such a child may have a poor understanding of social cues and nonverbal communication. Despite this, they have normal intelligence and language abilities.
Today, the term has faded out of fashion; replaced by the umbrella-term HFA, or High Functioning Autism. So what happened to the term Asperger’s and why don’t we seem to hear it anymore?
In 2013, the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was released by the American Psychiatric Association. Before it’s release, there were many terms used to describe types of autism with different traits. These could appear confusing. The manual simplified things by using the term ASD to cover all types of autism. It then created three levels to show the severity of symptoms.
Level 1 is the mildest form of autism, the type formerly known as Asperger’s. Individuals with level 1 autism may have restricted, repetitive behaviours and problems with organisation and planning. It is understood that these individuals will need some support.
In the UK, the DSM-5 is not the most commonly used manual, so use of the term “Asperger’s” continued to last a little longer here as popularity died out in the US. It does seem, however, that the UK is slowly following suit, although it has been promised that nobody with an Asperger’s diagnosis will “lose” their diagnosis because of changes in the manual. This is because some individuals view the name as part of their identity. The term also still remains in use in the ICD-10, the official medical classification list of the World Health Organisation.
Backlash Against Asperger
Public opinion has changed after new discoveries were made about Hans Asperger, the man whom the condition is named after.
It is believed that he collaborated with Nazis by referring children to a notorious euthanasia clinic during World War II.
He was not a member of the Nazi Party, but newly discovered documents state that he sent patients to the Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna, where a total of 789 children were put to death.
Because of these disturbing discoveries, many who formerly used the term “Asperger’s” to describe their autism have started to distance themselves from the name and any association with it.
I’d love to know what my blog readers think. Do you still use the term “Asperger’s” to describe High Functioning Autism?