Asperger’s Disorder – is it Autism? In her introduction, Francesca G. Happé, Ph.D., (London, UK) raised some of the key questions that have arisen regarding the diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder, which was introduced into DSM-IV in 1994. These questions include: is there an ‘Asperger’ subgroup of autism with distinct cause, course, cognitive profile, and intervention needs, and if so, what is its relation to other ASDs?...Asperger’s disorder has...had an impact on family studies of autism with regard to what we recognize as “caseness.” Dr. Happe noted that the current criteria do not work: they do not allow for developmental change, the early language criteria do not demarcate groups with different prognoses, it is hard to apply the diagnosis for adult cases, and there is no clear conceptual basis for the diagnosis. Dr. Happe concluded that although there is a recognizable Asperger’s type and that some cases of classic autism grow into this picture, she wonders whether there may be a better classification schema. Sally Ozonoff, Ph.D., (Sacramento, CA), in her presentation, compared high functioning autism (HFA) with Asperger’s, and noted that there were few differences in their definitional DSM-IV criteria; both require two social symptoms and one repetitive/stereotyped symptom, both are in the average range intellectually and have current fluent language. The main criterion distinguishing the two disorders is the requirement in Asperger’s that onset of language occurs at the expected time, e.g., single words by age 2. Dr. Ozonoff noted that it is difficult to evaluate the literature since definitions vary across studies and that many children who are thought clinically to have Asperger’s actually meet criteria for autism (which supercedes a diagnosis of Asperger's). There is some evidence to suggest that Asperger's and HFA do not represent distinct disorders: they co-occur in the same families and do not “breed true” (i.e., family members of patients with Asperger's have HFA and family members of patients with HFA have Asperger's); children with autism who develop language have similar outcome to Asperger's; HFA and Asperger's are indistinguishable by school-age; and although studies find better language skills and/or verbal IQ in Asperger's, multiple studies have found no group differences in other neuropsychological domains.Basically, we're in the abyss. I mean, I used to think, oh that CAN'T be a possibility for Brad. Silly me, looking for bright lines. I'll never learn! I have since downgraded "CAN'T" to "maybe not", bordering on "possibly some day in the distant future."
I figured this is worth a mention since a number of my bloggy friends are exploring asperger's.