Explained by a Psychologist: Asperger’s or Autism – What’s the Deal?

In the past few years, the term Aspergers has been removed from psychologists’ diagnostic language. Why was this? Do we still use the term? Is it Asperger’s or Autism? What’s the deal?

What is (Was) Asperger’s?

an adult man with aspergers or autism

Asperger’s syndrome (AS) is a form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that affects social interaction and communication. It is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication skills, as well as repetitive behavior and restricted interests. It is typically diagnosed in children, but can sometimes go undiagnosed until adulthood. Symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of Aspergers

When it was still a diagnosis, Asperger’s fell into the developmental disorder category. It had some common symptoms, such as:

  • Struggling to recognize the emotions of others
  • Struggling to understand other people’s emotions
  • Struggling to form relationships

Those with Asperger’s often fell into repetitive behavior patterns. Likewise, they often focused on only a few interests. Like several other developmental disorders, Aspergers was ultimately folded into a diagnosis called autism spectrum disorder.

Is Aspergers still used as a diagnostic term?

No, Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer used as an official diagnostic term. It was incorporated into the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

women with autism

Why is “Aspergers” no longer used by doctors?

Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer used as a distinct diagnostic category because of the difficulty distinguishing it from other forms of autism. The DSM-5 redefined autism as a single disorder with varying levels of severity, which includes autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and other related conditions. This makes it easier to diagnose and treat individuals on the autism spectrum.

Do we need a category for high-functioning autism?

The DSM-5 still includes a category of “Level 1” autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for individuals who are considered to have high-functioning autism. This classifies individuals who meet the criteria for ASD but have normal or above-average intelligence and less severe symptoms than other individuals on the spectrum.

Who was Hans Asperger?

Hans Asperger - asperger and autism scientist

Hans Asperger was an Austrian pediatrician who, in 1944, wrote one of the first published papers on autism, which described a condition characterized by a lack of empathy, difficulties with social interaction, and repetitive behavior. He also identified a subset of individuals with milder forms of autism, which later became known as Asperger’s syndrome.

What was wrong with Hans Asperger?

Hans Asperger’s studies on autism were controversial at the time due to his association with the Nazi regime. After the war, Asperger’s work was largely forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 1980s. His writings were later criticized for his lack of understanding of autism’s relationship to other disabilities, his use of language that devalued individuals with autism, and his support of ideas of racial superiority.

What does it mean to be on the autism spectrum?

Being on the autism spectrum is a neurological condition that affects communication and social interaction. People on the spectrum may be affected differently and may have symptoms that range from mild to severe. Symptoms include difficulty initiating and maintaining social interactions, difficulty communicating verbally and nonverbally, limited interests and repetitive behaviors, difficulty adjusting to change and sensory sensitivities.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to understanding autism and interventions are tailored to the individual.

How should society accept autistic people?

Society should accept autistic people by being understanding and compassionate. People should be respectful and patient, as well as make an effort to get to know autistic people as individuals, rather than generalize or label them based on stereotypes. People should also be aware of the needs of autistic people and help support their independence and self-determination. Additionally, people should strive to create environments that are safe and welcoming for autistic people, even if they are not always aware of the needs of autistic people.

How does the Sachs Center treat Autism?

The Sachs Center is a leading resource for providing comprehensive behavioral health, educational and therapeutic services for children, adolescents, and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders. We offer various evidence-based interventions tailored to meet the needs of individuals and families struggling with an ASD diagnosis. These interventions are designed to address core features of autism such as communication, social, and cognitive challenges, as well as related behavior issues. Our team of experienced professionals works in partnership with families to create individualized, comprehensive therapeutic plans.