New Study Says Autism and Aspergers Essentially the Same

| by Kev Leitch
Interesting new study in the upcoming issue of Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders which examines the historical emergence of the classification of autism alongside the emergence of the classification of Aspergers. Abstract is:

The histories of autism and Asperger’s Disorder (AD), based on original contributions by Kanner and Asperger, are reviewed in relation to DSM-IV diagnostic criteria. Their original articles appear to have influenced the distinction between AD and autism made in the DSM-IV. Based on up-to-date empirical research, however, it appears that AD and autism are not qualitatively distinct disorders, but are different quantitative manifestations of the same disorder. The differences between AD and autism may be a function of individual variability in these areas, not the manifestation of qualitatively distinct disorders. The DSM-IV criteria for AD and autism need to be considered with their historical developments, and based on empirical evidence, the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria may be subject to critical review.

The whole paper is a fascinating and accessible read but its overall conclusion is difficult to resist. Despite certain peoples beliefs that autism (by which I mean classic/severe/whatever) and aspergers (and the artificial construct of HFA) are very different, there is, in reality, very little difference between the two and, as the author argues, are simply slightly differing manifestations of the same ‘thing’.

Sanders (the author) makes the excellent point that the fact that these are seen as two different things is almost certainly due to the fact that Aspergers paper was only introduced into the USA in 1981, one year after the introduction of DSM III. It was further not fully translated into English until 1991. Amazing.

There is apparently talk of separating autism and aspergers in the new revision of the DSM. Based on the contents of this paper I’d say that is very premature.