Asperger’s Disorder, at the top of the autism spectrum, is becoming increasingly familiar. Unfortunately, the 5-hour long series of tests that are designed to properly diagnose autism, wherever on the spectrum one may lie, are quite expensive. Being considered a “mild” form of autism, Asperger’s Disorder has fallen victim to a more casual understanding, with an eruption of self-diagnosis following.
Asperger’s Disorder =Autism
The relationship between Asperger’s Disorder and autism is commonly misunderstood and misrepresented. Many self-proclaimed experts are touting Asperger’s Disorder as a disorder that is merely “similar” to autism. Actually, it is autism. Autism is a spectrum of disorders and the preferred nomenclature representing those at the top of the spectrum is “Asperger’s Disorder”. If one has Asperger’s Disorder, then one is autistic.
Asperger’s Disorder is Mild Autism
The spectrum of autism is vast. Focus tends to be placed on either the savant, highly intellectual or the severely mentally retarded. Often bypassed is the majority; those with more or less average/high average intelligence, the range in which most people with Asperger’s Disorder fall. Many of those affected with Asperger’s Disorder (a.k.a. High Functioning Autism), attempt to distance themselves from the misunderstandings associated with autism by claiming “Asperger” status rather than accepting autism. In this, Asperger’s Disorder has become increasingly misunderstood itself.
Staying Connected to the Spectrum
Disconnecting Asperger’s Disorder from the autism spectrum has served well to weaken understanding of it. Those with autism are often labeled “disabled” while those with Asperger’s Disorder are frequently looked upon as merely “quirky”. Asperger’s Disorder is serious and those affected are much more than quirky. Many have been mislead to believe that it is mere quirkiness that necessitates diagnosis. While true that noticing quirks within oneself or someone else may be what initiates the investigation and consequent referral for diagnosis, it is never sufficient information with which to make diagnosis.
Why Not Self-Diagnose?
Diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder is substantiated by far more than behavior analysis. Many neuro-typical people have quirks, even some of the same quirks that those with Asperger’s Disorder have. When a neuropsychologist performs testing, the tests are thoroughly investigating the patient, not only in behaviors, but also in neurology—where true autism lies.
Clinical diagnosis is of utmost importance: it preserves the integrity of the diagnosis, protects those with Asperger’s Disorder from further misunderstanding due to neuro-typicals bearing their designation, and protects the patient who suspects Asperger’s Disorder from complicating her/his own life through misdiagnosis.
The series of tests required to obtain a clinical diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder may have a price in the thousands and is typically not covered by insurance. This presents an inconvenient dilemma for many who are desirous of an evaluation. Still, Asperger’s Disorder deserves to be taken seriously; one would scarcely self-diagnose any other incurable clinical condition.
The student placement of a child with mild autism or Asperger’s syndrome will be an essential task for the classroom teacher, and one that should not be an afterthought at the end of the school year. The student’s future performance in school, and his social well-being will depend significantly on this decision.