What happened to Asperger's Syndrome?
In the year 1994, American Psychological Association (APA) classified a varied set of symptoms related to mental disorders into a diagnosis called Asperger’s. These symptoms included flat vocal patterns, lack of eye contact, anxiety, difficulties in reciprocal conversations, self-talking, and so on. Until 2013, this diagnosis was a part of the 4th edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
When APA published the new edition of DSM (DSM-5), there was no mention about Asperger’s syndrome as a separate diagnosis as that was then eliminated.
In this blog you’ll learn about
the previous manual
Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome and treatment approach
The DSM-5 manual includes all subtypes of autism that fall under the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Asperger’s syndrome is now considered a part of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and falls on the high-functioning end of the spectrum (Source: Autism Speaks). The DSM-5 redefined Autism Spectrum Disorders to encompass the previous (DSM-IV-TR) diagnoses of autism, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and childhood disintegrative disorder - (American Psychological Association)
What symptoms should parents look out for?
Asperger’s starts early in life, between the ages 5 and 9. Parents and guardians should observe their child and his/her behaviour from an early age in order to determine if they will require a professional diagnosis:
Eye-contact: Children with Asperger’s find it difficult to maintain eye contact when talking to or listening to others. They behave awkwardly in social situations, such as family gatherings or parties.
Communication: They find it very hard to communicate with others. As a result, they feel tremendous discomfort when placed in social settings.
Social etiquettes: Expressions and body language are not easily understood. For example, they cannot pick up on body language cues in order to determine whether the person they are communicating with is angry or happy. This renders them unable to modify their behaviour according to the mood of the environment.
Emotions: Children with Asperger’s struggle to express their emotions. This lack of expression makes it hard for people around to find out whether the child is happy or sad. For instance, they may not smile even when they are happy. Or, if there is amusing situation at home, he/she may just sit with a straight face.
Voice tone: If your child speaks with a robotic tone, which is devoid of any emotion and expression, it could be a symptom.
Repetitive: They may talk to themselves about random topics such as mountains, rocks, etc. and they may do so repetitively while using the same body movements.
Change is not welcome: For instance, if the child has become accustomed to a particular seat in the classroom, he/she would refuse to switch to a different spot. They may even refuse to try new varieties of food and instead, insist for the same type every day.
Parents must note that if your child is currently receiving Special Education services with an Asperger’s diagnosis, they will continue to do. Unless a clinical or legal reason calls for it, there will not be a standard re-evaluation or reconsideration of treatments.
Also, anyone that has been previously diagnosed with the Asperger’s label and wishes to retain it can do so. The DSM-5 states that “Individuals with well-established DSM-IV diagnoses of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder”. A clinician can indicate both the DSM-5 diagnosis as well as the DSM-4 Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis, in your child’s clinical record. (Source: Autism Speaks)
If you suspect that your child may have a developmental disorder, please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor. A timely diagnosis is vitally important for the child’s well-being. Early intervention allows children diagnosed with ASD to have much higher success rates with education and leading independent lives.