Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Asperger's and Autism

It's that time of the week again! Time to explore the alphabet with Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. I know, I know. I was not going to go through the alphabet again. I was going to stop doing this! I guess having a writing prompt once a week has been good for me. It gives me one day to write about something I might not have written about otherwise. We're starting the alphabet again, so we're addressing the letter "A." My blog is all about the letter "A!" Also, April is Autism Awareness Month. I haven't discussed this much on my blog because I figured I try to increase awareness about autism during the other 11 months too. Nevertheless, this gives me a good opportunity to shine a little spotlight on autism. For me, A is for Asperger's and autism.

There are huge misconceptions out there about Asperger's. I visited a board recently at Cafemom where someone asked for clarification on what Asperger's was. The answers people gave were pretty incorrect. It was so far off that it bordered on being funny. Here is a part of the person's question: "From what I've heard/read it "SEEMS" that any "quirk" a person has making it clear they aren't perfect, means they have Autism. If you have a speech impediment then it means they have Asperger's."

One person responded with the following (not edited for misspellings, etc.): "ok not a perfessional or anything just coming from someone who knows people/children that have both.. From what I gather aspergers is what they diagnose you with when your an adult and they have missed it as a kid and it is what autism develeps into when you get older and have been diagnosed as autistic as a child. Does that make sense? It's iike aspergers is the "mature" version kinda. Again i am not a doctor this is just from what i have observed/ been told by these people. Their is way more to it but that is kinda the gist of it."

This confustion isn't surprising at all. Asperger's is oftentimes misrepresented in the media. The television show Parenthood does an amazing job showing a child with Asperger's, however. Many people don't realize that Asperger's is a form of autism. Heck, the state I live in, California, doesn't seem to realize this! If a child gets an Asperger's diagnosis in California or Texas, they will not get services.

This is crazy to me! A child with Asperger's has similar issues as a child with autism. The three main areas affected for both are: 1) sensory 2) communication, and 3) socialization. The main difference between Asperger's and autism is when language is acquired. A child with Asperger's generally has no speech delay. In fact, these kids can have very advanced vocabularies. A child with autism can have enormous speech delays and may never even acquire the ability to speak.

I can imagine many of you out there reading this saying, "Well, if the child with Asperger's can speak, then they don't have the problems with communication that you listed above!" While it's true that a child with Asperger's can speak, they still have problems with communication. Having a two-way conversation can be extremely difficult for a child with Asperger's. They can be quite content with having a two-hour speech on the mating habits of Katydids, but not be able to tell that the other person has tuned them out 1 hour and 56 minutes earlier.

Another misconception is that Asperger's is a very high-functioning form of autism. While this is probably generally true, it's not always the case. Asperger's has a spectrum also. Some kids with Asperger's can be higher functioning, but there are cases where a child with Asperger's can be lower-functioning. In fact, it's entirely possible that a child with high-functioning autism could be much higher functioning than another child with Asperger's.

In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association may be doing away with the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This is very controversial within the autism community. For one thing, many adults with Asperger's like their label and do not want to see it officially go away. The move to fold Asperger's into the broader autism diagnosis is because they want the focus to be on severity of the condition. As I stated above, the Asperger's label can be misunderstood in this context.

Does this mean that the Asperger's label is going away? Probably in the official diagnosis only. I think people who would have otherwise been labeled as having Asperger's will still consider themselves to be Aspies. If it means that kids with Asperger's will no longer be denied services in California and Texas, then I'm all for getting rid of the Asperger's label. Officially, my daughter doesn't have this label. I still consider her to have Asperger's, however.

29 comments:

  1. and through in pdd-nos and people get really confused! LOL.

    great post.

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  2. Ahhh, the label game. I love to hate it!

    I run into the Asperger's vs Autism alot with my son's communication. "How can he be Autsitic if he can speak?" is what I hear so often. Thing is, he'll talk you under the table on computers...

    Very well said.

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  3. Aspergers is definitly it's own spectrum. I realized that even more yesterday when we were with a lower-funct individual who tried to hurt Ben. Yikes. People need to understand the difference between speech and langauage. Just b/c a kid can speak doesn't mean they have good language skills. And the spectrum within a spectrum gets tricky for people...Autism is SO huge...even I get confused!

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  4. So very true. I also love in California and have an Aspie. She does not receive Any services. People tell me all the time that she just needs more discipline and she is a "normal" kid. *bangs head*. Yes she is extremely smart and has a large, articulate vocabulary.... but spend one day with her and you won't be saying the same thing. My DD is high functioning Asperger's... there are just as many struggles.... just different struggles.
    Thank you for this post... I may link to it on my blog and FB. :D

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  5. Thanks for posting this. I am proud, I actually explained it correctly to a friend last night whose older brother (29 years old) has Aspergers and my four year old has autism. It is such a huge spectrum, and so confusing sometimes. Next time, I can just refer them to your blog :).

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  6. Our official Diagnosis is {on the Autistic Spectrum}. No official mention of being an Aspie but the Doctor's and I agree he is. I think one thing people don't recognize in the spectrum is another "A". Anxiety. My Son, Brother and Uncle all on the spectrum suffer from it.

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  7. This was amazing timing - prior to your post the search I typed into Google was 'what is the autism continuum' funny - I didn't find a straight answer...the fact is it is confusing - but thanks for posting this because every little bit helps bring some understanding.

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  8. I loved learning more about this. I just found out a friend has Asperger's. It has been tough for her.

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  9. Thanks for the information. It always helps to understand more.

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  10. I may sound a little cranky here, but I think that anything the state can do to avoid having to shell out money to help children with mental health issues, they will certainly do! I think that it is shameful. Sorry I am such a grump, but that is just the way I feel.

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  11. Thanks for the info.

    We actually had a meeting with a phyciatrist today and they said that my son would be considered Autistic not Aspergers. I had really thought they would come back with Aspergers but they said that because he needed speech therapy that rules it out. His speech therapy has been focused on his communication/conversation skills so I thought it wouldn't exclude Aspergers but guess not. Either way, he is still the same boy and we will keep going with what is working for us. The doctor did mention that the "autism" label would get him more help in the school system (we live in TX), so I guess it maybe better in the long run.

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  12. I always find it amazing that people who know so little about a topic chime in so loudly... crazy :)
    Great 'A' post...

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  13. Having both a child with Autism and one with Aspergers, I love how eloquently you defined the differences.

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  14. I can't believe that kids with Asperger's don't get services in California. That's ridiculous!

    "/

    PS. I'm glad you're doing another round of Alphabe-Thursday. I would miss your contributions.

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  15. Spot on...

    I have a grandson with Asperger's and you have defined it perfectly...

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  16. that's very interesting. But what about the future of Asperger's? If they are going to stop calling it that, then when the children with Asperger's pass on, no one will use the term... just a thought... {:-Deb

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  17. As mom to a son on the very far left of the bell curve, (PDD-NOS: extremely high functioning) I congratulate you for this post.

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  18. I had never heard of Aperger's until my nephew was diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger's a few years ago. Your post is valuable, yet the first thing I did when I learned of it was to read up on it. Why don't others do that instead of disseminating poor information (as in the case of the person you quote)? I find it amazing that people will ask non-experts for opinions instead of getting good scientific information. Now the position of the APA astounds me, given what you've just explained so well.

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  19. Wow you really stumbled into the brain trust of cafemom. I don't go out there often and now I remember why.

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  20. I watched a movie a while back about the young man who, from your description has Asperger's. It was a hollywood movie about a man obsessed with constellations and stars. I wonder what you would have though of the character's portrayal. It was a love story.
    Dana

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  21. You've nailed the definitions right on. It has been a road of discovery in this household, I refuse to label my boy, but knowing more about Asperger's gives me concrete ways of how to talk and deal with his nuances. He couldn't handle change as a little boy and we still have to tell him the weeks plan so he can absorb the schedule in his mind. Great post for A.

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  22. A very informative post, Cheryl! The differences between the two are well explained.

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  23. This was a good post and very informative. We all take life for granted sometimes and need reminders...

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  24. lovely post.

    thoughtfulness is cool.

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  25. Well, there are some things I never knew so thank you for pointing them out to me.
    Looking forward to reading more as we go through the alphabet

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  26. Great Post. We are starting our journey of Aspergers. My daughter was diagnosed at 5 with PDD-NOS because they didn't want to jump to the label now at 6 we are getting ready for the official Asperger label. Starting to blog about our fight- fourfrankesplustwo.

    We too are in California and I have to explain to even all the professionals that Aspies need help too and clearly tell them that is a form of Autism but they don't see it that way - Grrr.. Thanks for writing,

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  27. Hi,My son was diagnosed at age 11 with sever ADHD. The dr who did the testing said she had never seen anyone score as high as he did. We started him on meds and he's doing some better. In the last year, I've had two different doctors suggest having him evaluated for Aspergers as he seems to have many of the signs/symptoms. I have not chosen, yet, to do this. Here is my question... Shouldn't I be concerned about how it would affect a 13 yr old to suddenly have that label attached to him? Are there any tangible benefits and/or treatments available for him if he is "officially" diagnosed? What are your thoughts?? He is highly intelligent, creative, funny, and so difficult to live with at times. I worry about his relationship with his 4 brothers because he has no idea how to relate to them or they to him. I just want my son to have the best life possible for him. Any suggestions????

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  28. I do find this confusing...Even without a ton of knowledge, I'm shocked that anyone would classify Aspergers as mature Autism. WTH?!?!?

    I have attended lectures on the Autism spectrum just enough to know I know nothing at all.

    Cheryl? Is your blog linked to any Autism information sites? I don't see anything in your sidebar, but sometimes I am blind to the obvious.

    Thanks for a thoughtful link this week.

    A+

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