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Autism

Anxiety About New Guidelines for Asperger's Disorder

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Anxiety About New Guidelines for Asperger's DisorderThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is the text used by psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers for making diagnoses for people with behavioral disorders. Last month, the new edition of the DSM was published. It is called the DSM V contains major revisions to the categories of diagnosis. One of these revisions is in the area of the "Autism Spectrum Disorders."

Autism is a brain disorder that often makes it hard to communicate with and relate to others. With autism, the different areas of the brain fail to work together.

Autism begins at birth and continues throughout life although, with training, some of the symptoms can be reduced. The symptoms of Autism are:

1. Problems with non verbal communication such as making eye contact, facial expression and body posture.

2. Failure to establish friendships with same age children.

3. Lack of interest in sharing interests, achievements and enjoyment with other people.

4. Lack of empathy or the ability to understand the feelings of other people such as their pain or sorrow.

5. Delay in the development of speech.

6. Repetitive use of language, such as repeating one phrase over and over again.

7. Concrete understanding of what someone is saying while missing what they really mean.

8. Limited interests or activities.

These are just a few of the major symptoms of Autism.

In 1994 Asperger's was recognized as a mild form of autism that fit into it's own and separate diagnosis category. People with Asperger's have a high verbal ability and superior intellectual capacity. In other words, they are not afflicted by the learning disabilities of those with more severe forms of autism. Individuals with this syndrome have difficulty with social aspects of intelligence, such as understanding what those around them think and feel. As a result, they often behave inappropriately in social situations or act in ways that appear unkind or callous. Many Asperger's individuals have difficulty planning and coping with change despite average or even exceptional intelligence in academic or intellectual areas.

However, the new diagnostic manual, the DSM 5, does not use the term "Asperger's. Instead, it is folded into the term "autism spectrum disorders," ranging from the mildest to most severe autism, with Asperger's being the mildest form. The American Psychiatric Association says the new way of diagnosing autism disorders is more precise. However, many people with Asperger’s are upset and worried. Their concern is that some of them will no longer be considered part of the autism spectrum because their symptoms are too mild. Therefore, they run the risk of losing their medical, psychiatric and educational support services.

At present everyone is being told to wait and see how the new DSM works out. In addition, clinicians will be able to use their own judgment as to whether someone falls into the autism spectrum or not.

For anyone who wants more information and is in need of a support group they can go to "Families of Adults Affected by Asperger's Syndrome" (FAAAS, Inc.) Their URL is:

http://faaas.org/

Your comments, concerns and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

 

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