More Specific Diagnostic Label for Asperger’s Syndrome is Planned

25 Jul

I am noticing that many readers have an interest in autism and the disorders on the spectrum that I figured I would add this post to my blog.  Before you start reading the article, take a look at the below description of the topic of the disorder to which the article refers.  This will help you understand a bit more.  I found this information available on the website of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.  I quote from this source with interest, as I never knew this piece of history:

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“In 1944, an Austrian pediatrician named Hans Asperger observed four children in his practice who had difficulty integrating socially. Although their intelligence appeared normal, the children lacked nonverbal communication skills, failed to demonstrate empathy with their peers, and were physically clumsy. Their way of speaking was either disjointed or overly formal, and their all-absorbing interest in a single topic dominated their conversations. Dr. Asperger called the condition “autistic psychopathy” and described it as a personality disorder primarily marked by social isolation.

Asperger’s observations, published in German, were not widely known until 1981, when an English doctor named Lorna Wing published a series of case studies of children showing similar symptoms, which she called “Asperger’s” syndrome. Wing’s writings were widely published and popularized. AS became a distinct disease and diagnosis in 1992, when it was included in the tenth published edition of the World Health Organization’s diagnostic manual, International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), and in 1994 it was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic reference book.”

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Removing the DSM diagnoses of PDD-NOS and Asperger’s Syndrome from the DSM manual -Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – version 5 is scheduled to occur in May 2013.  There would be a new diagnosis – “social communication disorder“.  This has to do with pragmatic language skills.  Seems to me that not many people think about this area of language when they think about what speech-language pathologists do for a living so i am really happy that this change is in the works, in a formal body of work.   

So, many of you may be wondering what is “pragmatic language” and what is a “social communication disorder??  Well, pragmatic language refers to how we use language in interacting others.  In other words, what do we do when we communicate.  We can make statements, comments, ask questions, greet people, label things that we see, describe them, state actions that are occurring. we can end interactions with people by saying “good-bye”, we can state our feelings.  You get the idea; i am sure as you read this post.  How we look when we are communicating also impacts on social communication.  If your facial expression does not match the intended meaning of what you are saying then this may result in confused interpretation of what you are trying to relate to another person or group of people. 

With this information in mind, one can see why the “label” for this syndrome, in the DSM might be helpful to change.  In my mind it will enable others to more clearly understand the problems with which these people face.  It makes me ponder that if the labels of other mental health conditions were more clearly labelled, would those who live with them be treated differently?

I welcome your thoughts….

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