November 3, 2009

Asperger's or Autism Spectrum Disorder

As reported by the New York Times, the future DSM-V will have Autism Spectrum Disorder subsume Asperger's. This change highlights the debate that surrounds any taxonomy: is it better to lump or split? I side with the splitters on this issue. Mild autism or Asperger's is a different entity than severe autism; it's the difference between a college education and the inability to use language in any capacity. Even if Asperger's in under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder, the separate name implies a difference in prognosis and the response to therapies and treatment.

One other interesting point was alluded to in the article. Asperger's syndrome has only been officially used since 1994, and it is cases of Asperger's and mild autism that make up the majority of the growth in autism over the last couple decades. This is important to recognize as media outlets and advocacy groups often draw attention to the rise in autism, when a large part of the "epidemic" (and maybe all) may be due to increased recognition.

The picture that fronts the article illustrates synesthesia, a trait seen in many non-autistics. I am not aware of an increased prevalence of synesthesia in those with autism.