Autism Awareness RibbonThe American Psychiatric Association has recommended that Asperger’s Syndrome be removed from being a separate diagnosis than autism.  This definitely has it’s pros and cons from my perspective as the mom of an Aspie young lady.

On one hand, autism carries a stigma and a stereotype — unfortunately, people who are not directly familiar with autism envision “Rain Man” or a child moaning or banging their head against the wall – things they have seen on TV or in the movies.  Having a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome creates a distinction between what people traditionally think of autism, and a higher functioning individual.

However, should the diagnosis officially change – I guess I’ll have to change the name of this blog, won’t I?  (and I just started it!)  One of the primary reasons I began this effort was because of the blank stares I receive when I explain that my daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome.   Following the blank stare reaction, I follow up by saying, “It’s high-functioning autism.”  Then they say, “Ohhhh.”  I wonder what goes through their mind at that point.

Originally diagnosed as ADHD in the 3rd grade, she was not re-diagnosed as Aspergian until her freshman year of high school when the social ineptness and obsessions with unusual topics became very apparent. If a diagnosis for Asperger’s had not existed, I am pretty sure she would still be considered ADHD today — not autistic.  And, we’d still be dealing with teachers urging us to medicate her to make their lives easier.

No matter what this condition is called, it should be made clear that every person diagnosed on the autism spectrum is an individual with unique strengths and weaknesses.  Although I like the current differentiation between autism and Asperger’s, changing a diagnosis from Asperger’s Syndrome to autism creates more opportunities, better understanding and accommodations, I’m in support of that.

Be sure to check out this NPR commentary “Asperger’s Officially Placed Inside Autism Spectrum”