Autism vs. Asperger’s – Part Two

When talking with clients and working with them to explore, educate themselves and trying to help them own the characteristics of their differing neurology, they often prefer to use the term Asperger’s or features of Asperger’s rather than autism.

The Debate about the Terms

In discussing this issue with professionals who work with Autism there is significant debate about the pros and cons of using the term Asperger’s.  In a nutshell those who work with the severely disabled as well as higher functioning lean towards wanting to be inclusive and accepting of all levels without differentiation thus advocating for dismissal of the term Asperger’s. Advocates for people with substantial disabilities get upset when those who are higher functioning (typical person with “Asperger’s”) want to differentiate themselves from those who are more handicapped.  This idea of “inclusiveness” is understandable especially in light of all the benefits of being “non-discriminatory” or prejudicial.

Removing the Stigma

Joe is 56 and has recently uncovered the up until now unknown cause of his lifelong challenges with his marriage, work and just about every area of his life.  First his wife raised the issue of possible Asperger’s and then they went to a therapist that specializes in working with Asperger’s.  The therapist reviewed with the couple the challenges that Joe has been having including substantial depression and explained that his challenges were features of Asperger’s a type of Autism.  Joe was adamant that he did not want to be considered “autistic” as this would depress him terribly and brought awful images into his mind of severely disabled children he remembered seeing in elementary school. The therapist explained that Asperger’s better described what he was experiencing.  She suggested that he begin thinking of his different ways of interacting with the world as part of the neurology of Asperger’s rather than blaming/judging himself….

As illustrated above, using the term Asperger’s is more palatable than Autism.  While this is certainly true in the argument of Asperger’s versus Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder there is still a big challenge with either diagnosis.  Many, if not most adults and teens, will strongly resist the diagnosis of Asperger’s as well.