Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Introvert or Asperger Syndrome?

Today I read Benjamin Nugent's wonderful op-ed in the New York Times, I Had Asperger Syndrome. Briefly. His experience gave a voice to my lingering suspicions about incorrectly diagnosing awkward, introverted, smart teens with Asperger's. Being a quirky teen with "poor" social skills doesn't necessarily equal autism. 

Some food for thought from Mr. Nugent's piece:

  • "You can be highly perceptive with regard to social interaction, as a child or adolescent, and still be a spectacular social failure. This is particularly true if you’re bad at sports or nervous or weird-looking."
  • "I wonder: If I had been born five years later and given the diagnosis at the more impressionable age of 12, what would have happened? I might never have tried to write about social interaction, having been told that I was hard-wired to find social interaction baffling." 
  • " experience can’t be unique. Under the rules in place today, any nerd, any withdrawn, bookish kid, can have Asperger syndrome." 

With the upcoming changes to the DSM, everyone seems to have an opinion on how the new changes will affect the number of children diagnosed with autism.

What seems to be most concerning to people is that under the new criteria, those currently labeled "high functioning" or with "Asperger's" will no longer meet the criteria.

My first thought when I heard this concern voiced was that maybe it isn't a bad thing. Maybe introverts are being diagnosed as having Asperger's. I'll admit, I haven't been following the discussion very closely, so I've been keeping my opinions to myself and I might be missing something completely. In fact, please let me know if you think I'm missing something major in this discussion.

So I'm finally weighing in with my opinion:
Yes, I think children with autism, even those with high functioning autism, need access to the necessary therapy and supports to reach their full potential.
No, I don't necessarily think the narrower criteria for autism is a bad thing. Let's not inhibit the abilities of kids by handing out unnecessary labels.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming changes to the DSM?

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