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Is Asperger Syndrome a mental illness?

Is Asperger Syndrome a mental illness?

That depends on how you define "mental illness". If you define it as "something in the DSM-IV, treated by a psychologist, with primarily mental symptoms", then yes, it's a mental illness. But consider: Under this definition, many other things are mental illnesses: Mental retardation, learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD, speech impediments, Alzheimer's. Putting autism in that group makes sense--even if "mental illness" has connotations that those things don't have.

On the other hand, let's define mental illness as "a condition with emotional, behavioral, and sometimes psychotic symptoms, treated by a psychologist, which causes distress and impairs function." Under that definition, none of the above (including autism) qualify. This is the more commonly used definition of mental illness...

You know, reading the above paragraph, I realize I have trouble properly explaining the average-person idea of "mental illness"; my definitions don't really seem to draw a mental line between the two groups. All I really have is a large list of examples which people would consider to be "mental illness" and I have trouble properly drawing out the common characteristics.

So maybe it would be better to just make a list of what most people would consider to be "mental illness".

  • Various anxiety disorders: Panic attacks, GAD, OCD
  • Schizophrenia and other conditions that involve psychosis
  • Depression and related conditions
  • Bipolar disorder and related conditions
  • Hypochondria and other psychological conditions with physical symptoms ("It's all in your head")
  • Dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities)
  • Eating disorders

I went through literally all of the DSM-IV categories to pick those out. (Wikipedia rocks, incidentally.) They made up barely a quarter of the available diagnoses. Also note that the previous list includes mostly very severe psychological disorders--the "flashy" kind they put on TV a lot--and the ones you're most likely to be hospitalized for. I actually had to debate whether to put hypochondriasis on that list, because most people wouldn't immediately associate it with "mental illness" so much as "making a fool out of yourself".

"But," some say, "Asperger's isn't a disability. If it isn't a disability, it can't be a mental illness." Hate to burst your bubble, but yes, Asperger's is a disability. That there are positive aspects to AS doesn't change that we lack some skills the world expects of us. By the social model, we are disabled, just like deaf people and wheelchair users who, just like us, simply need the right environment. Social model: A deaf person in a hearing world is quite disabled; a deaf person in a signing world is not disabled. An Aspie in a world where people use lots of vague communication is disabled; in a world where people say what they mean (and where special interests are OK and people don't create overwhelming sensory situations), he's not disabled. But of course, the social model of disability is quite another issue altogether.

The "Asperger's is not a mental illness" protest, I think, stems from this popular concept of mental illness as something that makes you "go crazy" and get put in the looney bin. This is an unfortunate state of affairs because, technically, in the medical sense, AS is a mental illness; but in the colloquial sense of the term, it's far from it.

How to explain Asperger's? Describe it as neurological--"My brain works differently". This should evoke the right connotations in the listener's mind.

Comments

(Anonymous)

You left some out

Organic Brain disorder (one of the few things that almost always gets you acquitted of crimes)
Sociopathic disorder
The remaining host of personality disorders

This culling exercise also leaves out the fact that for many, many years autistics were misdiagnosed very widely as child-onset schizophrenics. Likewise, there are very many cross-diagnosis symptoms between schizophrenia and the anxiety disorders and autism. Different biology, more than likely, different diagosis - very similar symptoms. Take catatonic schizophrenics, for example. That is a very similar behavior to the type of difficulty initiating muscle movement that Amanda Baggs describes. Likewise, I see repetitive movements and speech tics in autistics that are similar to those found in Tourettes. Different cause - same symptom.

What "people" think of as a mental disorder is kind of a scary idea. Most "people" are ignorant bigots, I'm afraid. I wonder about calling Aspergers or vanilla ASD a mental disorder: it's more neurological in its basis. However, I doubt that there are many people who would disagree that, based on what we currently know, schizophrenia is 100% a chemical inbalance caused either by hard-wiring reception/lack of reception of certain neurotransmitters or a problem with the chemicals themselves. So where exactly is the line?

Labels are difficult and dangerous. I am somewhat comforted by the fact that the DSM contains a bunch of stuff that ranges in severity, prognosis, and basis. At least then, when somebody cracks the DSM to try and decide how to help me or my kid, I needn't worry about the state showing up to put me away. At least not at the moment. . . .

Re: You left some out

I don't think there really IS a line... or, if there is, it exists primarily in public perception.

(Anonymous)

Questions

Hello,

My six year old has been diagnosed twice with Asperger's Syndrome--once by a private psychologist and again supported by the school's psychologist. My questions are, how bad is it for me to choose not to medicate him--against the advice of the psychologists--and for me to cease all visits to the psychologists?

I have pretty much decided to let my son be himself. I am going to raise him like I know how and just continue to do what I do. I've raised three other children and they are all smart and wonderful. My son is also super smart and his oddities give him his unique personality. I refuse to medicate him to make him "normal," that wouldn't be him. I like his wackiness and his humor and other than little problems here and there, he is as close to "normal" as anybody else.

I'd appreciate your feelings on my views. I just want to know if I'm doing the right thing. I want him to grow up into a compassionate adult that has a job and a nice life. I don't even care if he wants to stay home with us forever--like he says right now!

Thanks,

Joseph's mom

Re: Questions

There is no real reason to medicate an autistic child unless he is in distress from some indirect source. For example, an autistic child with ADHD might be given a stimulant to help him concentrate; or an autistic child with anxiety he couldn't manage on his own would be given an anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication. But in either case, he would also be taught skills to manage the ADHD or the anxiety on his own; and if he learned them well, that would mean he might not need as much (or any) of the medication.

But don't medicate just "for autism", because there's nothing that actually does anything for autism itself. Medicating wouldn't even make him normal; it would be more like making him more compliant... The only medication approved for autism is Risperdal; and that is an antipsychotic meant for children with severe aggression problems.

An autistic child grows best when he is given the education he needs to learn the skills expected of him. If he's not good at social skills, teach him how; if he's bad at handling stress, teach him how. Same as any other child... He might do things in different ways; but that doesn't really matter as long as he learns, right? And make sure that he gets lots of opportunities to use his strongest skills, because they'll end up being what gets him a job later on... Very few people are happily employed in the areas they've got weaknesses in, after all; it's the strengths that make you a valuable worker.

Congrats on your Aspie child :) You'll have a lot of stress and a lot of happiness... but then, that's parenting!

(Anonymous)

Re: Questions

If the child is happy, and you can train him in social skills - why drug him?

"there's nothing that actually does anything for autism itself"

Maybe not yet, but if it is true that autism is reduced when the child has a fever, perhaps one day there will be a drug that does whatever it is that the fever does.

(Anonymous)

Re: Questions

Dear Joseph's Mom,

I love your approach and total approval of and unconditionally loving your son. Me too! My son is 20 and I've recently come to realize after all these years that he is has Aspergers. I love him with all my heart but he does drive ME crazy from time to time.

Right now he is struggling with acceptance from the opposite sex and his heart is getting broken. It's painful to watch. He is an only child and his father and I are divorced. He has depression and refuses medication for it.

The key with these children is to not allow them to socially isolate themselves. The more they communicate and interact with other people, the more accepting of themselves they can be when they reach those critical years of adolescence.

Good luck to you. Reading your letter today really helped me.

(Anonymous)

Neurobiological is better

Neurobiological better describes my son. He could lie on a couch in a pyschologists office all day long and it wouldn't help with the biological aspects of his dx. And yeah, I don't like mental illness, disorder, syndrome or whatever descriptives are out there - they infer allover inferiority. Sigh.

(Anonymous)

Re: Neurobiological is better

So you would consider someone with a mental illness to be inferior?

(Anonymous)

I think the question is whether you see it, and present it, as a mental illness and what you see/present mental illness as being. As an adult, these choices are pretty well up to you. It's different for kids, whose parents and teachers make the calls, but adults have a great deal of choice.

(Anonymous)

I agree that Aspergers is a disability. We had to struggle with our daughter's diagnosis in the sense that our previous health insurance would not cover anything they considered to be a mental illness. So, when she was initially diagnosed with a mental illness (BP) we had zero coverage. Once she was diagnosed with Autism and not BP then we had coverage. That is the hardest thing to deal with. No matter what the diagnosis our child needed help. Not having insurance coverage for a few years about bankrupted us. marlabaltes.blogspot.com
If they had this diagnosis, they no longer qualified for Office of Mental Health (OMH) services, yet because their IQs appeared normal and they had symptoms of anxiety disorders or obsessive compulsive disorder they had problems obtaining OMRDD eligibility for needed services.
Okay, for the record, somebody posted a comment here with someone's real name.

Their comment: I work with a guy (name) at (workplace). He has Aspergers. How can a person with Aspergers be a researcher if he does not have skills necessary for interviewing people? He is good with non living things.

My reply: We can learn those skills, just as a dyslexic person can learn to read. It takes a great deal of effort, though, so one has to choose carefully what to focus on, because learning all of them would mean ignoring one's strengths.

The person in question later contacted me and told me to remove the comment, since he does not actually have Asperger's.

No more real names, people. Privacy is important.

(Anonymous)

Debunking the myths of Asperger Syndrome

I really contend the perspective that AS is a disability. As a researcher, I have honestly observed and studied people who have characteristics similar to that of AS, but without the cognitive deviations associated with AS. These people were misdiagnosed with AS, as I had been when I was 17 (I was also misdiagnosed with bipolar then, because I had simply been going through a rough period, and I was able to outgrow a lot of the characteristics associated with Asperger's as well as my bipolar depression, although for some strange reason I still have the manic episodes - which can be kind of fun, sometimes, so long as I don't hazard too many whimsical exploits...I haven't danced naked anywhere *much to the relief of thousands of onlookers who would be traumatized for life, I'm sure. Oh, and I haven't spended copious amounts of money, but I have committed incorrect grammatical 'whoopses', such as 'spended'. THANK GOD I'M NOT IN THE US SENATE: "Chairman, I would like to confirm that the appropriorations subcommittitteee has spendeded thar annual budget of...Oh, don't go there. I don't even LIKE talking about figures after the crap that's goin on on Wal-Street. HEY!! WAL-STREET!!! That's almost like Wal-Mart...except NOT "Always Low Prices"

Well, I may not be Asperger's, but if there's one thing for sure...I'm a nutterbar. Dang!! Oh, and you know those...manic episodes I mentioned previously. Well, someone forgot to take their Lamictol *hint: the author of this trippy pineapple grenade (trying to substitute for 'clusterfuck') here.

Okay, well, now that my rational mind has presided and I'm less...insane...I would have to say that there is an overflux of people diagnosed with aspergers. I just really think that it's overdiagnosed, and as I mentioned before, I really think that it should be recategorized as HFA. And in many of the patients which I've observed, they have characteristics similar to AS, but without the cognitive deviations of autism. They also, like myself, outgrow these characteristics. I really think that reasoning for their diagnosis is due to the fact that they are going through a rough period, and not due to a pervasive developmental condition. Because a lot of these people merely have characteristics that are falsely attributed to Asperger's, without the cognitive deviations of autism. And you can't have AS without the autism. So in this case, it is a misdiagnosis, and not a pervasive developmental condition. However, even with people who truly do have a pervasive condition such as HFA, they can overcome the cognitive-behavioral aspects of it to be fully functioning, socially-adjusted people. And a lot of these people who, like myself, were misdiagnosed with AS, are very good socially. And I, myself, am very socially-adjusted, except I would have to admit, of course, that my hyperactivity tends to make me look a bit of a hooligan. And I do apologise for that; i'm really just tryin' to release some things. I'm a really laid-back, down-to-earth person, so I like to be colloquial with people. It's just how I am. I have a little...too much...personality, I have to admit. Just lemme know when to simmer down some, and I will abide by that. But I really do think that AS is largely misunderstood to be some vast imparity *hahah, I like neologisms* to one's functioning, but that is completely false. In fact, many with AS are suprafunctioning, and perceive things on a completely different level than even I can tap into. I mean, that's why I know I don't have AS; these people are far more intelligent than I am, and far more mathematical, imaginative or abstract than even I can comprehend. Their logic resides on a completely stratospheric level that even I cannot relate to. I don't know how they do it...they're miracle-workers. The thing is, I wonder how they synchronize things together. I'd be so intrigued to learn their logic...if you could provide me with any feedback, that would be wonderful. I'd love to learn how they compartmentalize information, and connect things together. Would be fascinating...

(Anonymous)

pardon my verbal diahhrea, which created unintended sensory overload..

Yikes...I really do apologize for all that. I think I took a stimulant that just made me haywire, but that really was excessive. I really do apologize. Next time, I will have to moderate my excessive verbiage, so that I can retain my verbal impulses and do not commit this again. Is there any way that I can delete that post, or you can delete it?? I will just post an edited commentary without the extraneous verbal chatterbox. Again, I do apologize for the excessiveness of that post...I did not mean for it to be as excessive as it came out. I just feel disgraceful...I really do apologize for that. I hope that somehow you can forgive me. I really do apologize for that. I promise that I will keep the posts shorter and more relevant in the future.

Debunking the myths of Asperger Syndrome
I really contend the perspective that AS is a disability. As a researcher, I have honestly observed and studied people who have characteristics similar to that of AS, but without the cognitive deviations associated with AS. These people were misdiagnosed with AS, as I had been when I was 17 (I was also misdiagnosed with bipolar then, because I had simply been going through a rough period, and I was able to outgrow a lot of the characteristics associated with Asperger's as well as my bipolar depression.

I would have to say that there is an overflux of people diagnosed with aspergers. I just really think that it's overdiagnosed, and as I mentioned before, I really think that it should be recategorized as HFA. And in many of the patients which I've observed, they have characteristics similar to AS, but without the cognitive deviations of autism. They also, like myself, outgrow these characteristics. I really think that reasoning for their diagnosis is due to the fact that they are going through a rough period, and not due to a pervasive developmental condition. Because a lot of these people merely have characteristics that are falsely attributed to Asperger's, without the cognitive deviations of autism. And you can't have AS without the autism. So in this case, it is a misdiagnosis, and not a pervasive developmental condition. However, even with people who truly do have a pervasive condition such as HFA, they can overcome the cognitive-behavioral aspects of it to be fully functioning, socially-adjusted people. And a lot of these people who, like myself, were misdiagnosed with AS, are very good socially. And I, myself, am very socially-adjusted, except I would have to admit, of course, that my hyperactivity tends to make me look a bit of a hooligan. And I do apologise for that; i'm really just tryin' to release some things. I'm a really laid-back, down-to-earth person, so I like to be colloquial with people. It's just how I am. I have a little...too much...personality, I have to admit. Just lemme know when to simmer down some, and I will abide by that. But I really do think that AS is largely misunderstood to be some vast imparity *hahah, I like neologisms* to one's functioning, but that is completely false. In fact, many with AS are suprafunctioning, and perceive things on a completely different level than even I can tap into. I mean, that's why I know I don't have AS; these people are far more intelligent than I am, and far more mathematical, imaginative or abstract than even I can comprehend. Their logic resides on a completely stratospheric level that even I cannot relate to. I don't know how they do it...they're miracle-workers. The thing is, I wonder how they synchronize things together. I'd be so intrigued to learn their logic...if you could provide me with any feedback, that would be wonderful. I'd love to learn how they compartmentalize information, and connect things together. Would be fascinating...

(Anonymous)

Re: pardon my verbal diahhrea, which created unintended sensory overload..

You're forgetting all the Aspies who aren't superintelligent. You don't have to have a high IQ to have AS; the majority of Aspies (just like the majority of non-AS people) score at 80-120. Just because the stereotype says we are math geniuses doesn't mean we all are. It seems to me like you studied gifted people with AS characteristics, ignoring the more average end of the AS spectrum.

I agree--it is really no more than autism without speech delay; but I think it's presumptive to say that it is never (or even not usually) a disability. It is a different way of life, and there's nothing shameful about it; in fact, most have much more trouble with prejudice and other hostile environments than from autism. However, the cognitive differences produce a situation in which what you can do is not what society expects of you, and that is the definition of a disability.

AS plus high intelligence often results in someone who is able to "fake normal". That does not mean that he IS normal, because he still thinks differently and still puts out much more effort to socialize than NTs do. Additionally, he will still have the "activities/interests" subgroup of traits: Strong interests; repetitive movement; routines. And there's very little you can do to "overcome" sensory sensitivity. You have to work with that--keep your stress level low.

You're focusing overmuch on social skills... Social skills can be learned. In adulthood, AS looks different than it does in children. AS adults have often learned enough social skills to "pass" despite having a drastically different way of thinking than most people around them. That doesn't make them non-autistic; they won't lose their diagnosis unless they started out with such a mild case of AS that it just barely touched the diagnostic borderline.

AS can be misdiagnosed. It can be overdiagnosed. But it is real, and it is not just being a "nerdy genius". People with AS often have learning disabilities, often have to deal with executive dysfunction, often come down with mental illnesss (being big targets for bullying, exclusion, prejudice, and abuse probably contributes a great deal to this problem).

Also, every Aspie is different from every other. Aspie #1 is a dyslexic, scatterbrained artist; extroverted chatterbox oblivious to social mistakes; spends six hours a day drawing a web comic. Aspie #2 is an introvert with no friends who is fascinated with an online game, where socializing is easier; he tends to have social anxiety and does well at mathematics. Aspie #3 learned to read at age 3 and has never stopped since. He devours information on every subject possible; but he has bad grades because he's horrible at taking tests and can't fit himself to the standardized way of learning. He hangs out with the "weird" kids and has some satisfying relationships. Aspie #4 secretly loves a kids' cartoon show, but keeps his fascination secret because he knows it's "weird". He's painfully aware of his low social skills and spends every day of his life carefully analyzing every action and word for normality. As a result, his social skills are much higher than most Aspies', but he also suffers a lot of anxiety and spends a lot of time feeling as though others would reject him if they knew who he "really" was.

These are pretty typical cases for Asperger's. The "nerdy genius" stereotype is just not true of most of us.

(Anonymous)

"Labels are difficult and dangerous." - oh yeah, they are. and i apologise to the person whom i'm quoting as i had forgotten your name, or if you were anonymous. i've gotten about 5 hours of sleep in the past week, and my addled mind doesn't recall your name. i'm a researcher as well, and i was reading over the post that person had outlining all the various characteristics of syndromes and so forth...all i can say is that a lot of these things are precategorical in nature. You cannot simply assume that something that could be an aspect of one's personality necessitates a 'syndrome' - I absolutely agree with the person who posted above, and I think that no two individuals with AS are alike. I have a son who was misdiagnosed with AS, and I can honestly tell you that after the misdiagnosis was confirmed, I don't think that I would ever trust the psychiatric industry again. I don't think that these precategorical labels are helpful - they just aren't ontological enough. i have heard that there are some standards that are true of most people with AS, and high IQ is linked to it. However, not everyone with AS has high IQs. It's usually the high-functioning people with AS who have higher IQs. However, as a researcher, I have studied people who were thought to be severely autistic who had aphasia due to a discrepancy in the Broca's area (the seat of speech) that causes aphasia, but ended up having very high IQs. There's a documentary called "Autism is a World" about a girl (Sue Reuben) who was thought to be severely autistic, and was confirmed later through IQ tests to have an IQ of 134. So these things aren't mutually exclusive: people with severe autism can have high IQs. But there is a correlation linking people with AS to high IQs. And particularly the high-functioning individuals tend to have higher IQs. But IQ, like a lot of psychiatric disorders, isn't something that can be measured accurately. You have to consider that there are variations within people, so no one can be precategorically labelled like this - so there's no point in worrying about it. So I think that a lot of these designations are ad hoc, and they don't really reflect anything. And plus, AS can easily be outgrown. I think it's just an aspect of personality.

(Anonymous)

Absolutely - Sorry, I just ran into this online. But all I can say is that I distrust the psychiatric industry completely. As a clinician, I've met and researched a lot of people with HFA/AS, and a lot of them are extremely social, very socially perceptive, extremely organized, and very athletic. And the majority of the people I've seen with AS have outgrown the characteristics of OCD associated with it, and many of them were social to begin with. So it's just a psychosomatic thing, and just an aspect of personality. But I really don't think that these kinds of designations are helpful, nor are they empirical. Nor are the psych evaluations objective enough in their diagnostic methodologies to arrive at anything even remotely conclusive. From what I've seen and what I've studied, AS is just an it's easily something that can be surmounted and outgrown. So I think that it's merely an aspect of personality and a behavioral condition that can be overcome. It's just a pseudo-disorder which is a contrivance of the psychiatric industry in order to make a profit. everyone's different, so there's no way to classify people in any of these arbitrary designations.

(Anonymous)

Hi, Sorry I just ran into these threads right now. My name is Allison, and I don't have a livejournal account as I have a horrible time remembering passwords, but I would just like to say that you have to be careful whence categorizing these things, because there really are exceptions to every rule. I was just reading over the posts, and I definitely would concur that a lot of these diagnoses are hard to make; because people are just far too complex to be put into a category. So I think that a lot of what is thought to be AS is based on personality, and that these things can change overtime. The human brain isn't in a fixed state; it can change overtime. So I don't give particular credence to a lot of these disorders out there. I really don't think there is an accurate way to diagnose disorders. I certainly find that the tests are erroneous, and that there's no way to quantify who a person is. We're all different, so really I don't see it necessary that we need to be labeled. And I particularly can conceive that a lot of these disorders such as OCD and AS are behavioral conditions that can be outgrown.
"Overcome" is the worst possible advice you could ever give to someone with autism, Asperger's or otherwise. An autistic person who comes to believe this will begin to hate himself for being too lazy, too immature, too stupid.

Autism is not primarily behavioral; it is neurological. There are structural differences between the brains of autistic and non-autistic people (that includes Asperger's autistics). And it starts, in most cases, at birth; and in almost all cases before the age of three.

Autism is inherited. An identical twin of someone on the autism spectrum is 95% likely to have some kind of autism himself, though he is only 50% likely to have the same kind of autism. There is a lot of variation from person to person; it is thought that small differences in the prenatal environment, especially, can change how an autistic brain develops. (In the case of twins, remember that the prenatal environment can be and often is different for even identical twins. I am an identical twin; my twin died before birth; I was born healthy. Case in point.)

Additionally, while autistic people are introverted more often than they are extroverted, autistic extroverts exist. So do autistic people with every other personality type. Autism affects personality and cognition; but it is not just a kind of personality.

There are a lot of other neurological conditions associated with autism. Seizures are common. So is face-blindness (the inability to memorize faces). So are learning disabilities of all kinds. Tourette's. ADHD. Sensory-integration disorder. Dyspraxia. All of those are neurological in origin.

And if you think it is "easy to overcome" Asperger's, then you have never tried to overcome Asperger's. Learning social skills is possible; but it is as hard as learning to read while being severely dyslexic. You may learn them; but you will always have to work very hard to use them. And then you have everything else still to change: The need for routines; the love of specialist subjects; the odd speech and body posture... Some of those things simply can't be changed. There's only so much a human being can do at one time, and for someone with Asperger's, it's very hard to fake typical for a short period of time and impossible for long periods of time.

Trying to "overcome" Asperger's, rather than working with it, leads to such high levels of stress that mental illness is almost inevitable. I had to spend time in a mental ward before I knew that; though, in my defense, at the time nobody knew I was autistic, and trying harder was the only solution anybody had ever told me to use. Trying harder didn't work.

The feeling of "trying harder", of faking normal, is like running too many programs on an old computer... Sooner or later, there is simply not enough processing power left, and you lock up. Being very intelligent doesn't protect you from that, because the brain, unlike a computer, doesn't have a single CPU. The processing you use for socializing is different from the kind you use for math; and if you have Asperger's, your brain is made in such a way that, whatever your other talents may be, your social area works slowly and inefficiently. You can only do so much with that. The solution isn't opening program after program and hoping your computer will learn to speed up; it's using the processing power you do have in an intelligent and creative way. If you don't have the processing power for eye contact, then don't make eye contact. If you get tired out from interpreting speech, then use e-mail. Work around things. Don't bash your head against a brick wall--literally or figuratively--because you will only do damage to yourself and possibly others.

If you want to live a good life with autism, it is not worthwhile to try to become non-autistic. You are much better off finding workarounds, finding your own ways to do things, pursuing your own goals in your own way without chasing after an ideal "normal" that is not YOUR ideal at all.

(Anonymous)

I happened across this livejounal thread, and I would have to say that the concept of 'overcoming' anything like autism is a bit of a loaded concept. It's a bit of a misnomer, and it really depends on the degree of severity that one with an ASD has. I think that those who truly have pronounced characteristics of autism cannot entirely overcome such sensory anomalies. However, I would have to illustrate that as a child psychiatrist, I have witnessed a few cases where children with mild forms of high-functioning autism/asperger syndrome have progressed to the point where the are no longer tested on the spectrum. However, this is rather exceptional, and it very much depends on the severity of the symptoms and to what degree they manifest....and also on individual adaptability. It is a generally reported statistic that those who have a mild level of severity would have a higher chance of adapting and surmounting these behaviors.

Conversely, those with more pronounced neurological features of autism would most likely not recover from them. That having been said, allow some reassurance in the fact that I have observed cases of high-functioning individuals who have matriculated out of the spectrum. A recent client of mine had a son who was high-functioning autistic, and in a three-year timespan, I have seen him mature from a child who would make no eye-contact to one who can carry on entire conversations with you, so I have seen it happen; and it can very well be done. Again, it depends on the severity of the case and the type of treatment program they embark on. The ABA program is used in the clinic, and the majority of reported cases have demonstrated a significant improvement from it. But the prognosis itself is very case-specific, and dependent on level of severity.

(Anonymous)

Re: Debunking the myths of Asperger Syndrome

Hello! I would like to know your definition of "rough period".

I disagree with your statement that you can't have AS without autism. I'd like to know where you got that information so I can learn more.

Someone's Mom with AS

(Anonymous)

People with Asperger syndrome are NOT disabled, but DIFFERENTLY-ABLED

I would have to disagree with the contention that Asperger syndrome is a disability; rather, in my experience as a clinical psychiatrist who has both worked with and studied children with this syndrome, Asperger syndrome presents itself as more of a DIFFERING set of abilities rather than a DIS-ability. In my observations of these children, I would have to say that many are actually surprisingly gifted at things like music and mathematics and while I have seen many clients with more pronounced cases of autism who had more of an issue with sensory overload - thus leading to more meltdowns that gave the false IMPRESSION of some kind of lack of emotional maturity - I believe that this had largely been an erroneous conclusion on the part of those who didn't understand the experience of sensory overload, and believe me, it is jarring. Honestly, the crux of the matter is something which most people don't understand - EVERYONE experiences sensory-overload from time to time. Believe me, I'm Bipolar I with ADHD and bouts of hypomania, and in these moments of heightened sensitivity I experience overload on a regular basis. But what psychiatrists and the macrostructure of society *have* to understand is that these meltdowns which make autistic people look.......I dunno, "socially inappropriate", "immature" or any other pejorative connotation used by mainstream, neurotypical society (of which I can proudly attest that I am NOT a member of - And believe me, as a clinical psychiatrist studying all these neurological deviations, I realized THAT rather quickly.

(Anonymous)

Re: People with Asperger syndrome are NOT disabled, but DIFFERENTLY-ABLED

...undoubtably this is true, that Autistics have a different set of abilities, but the difference between disabled and differently-abled is mostly a matter of sematics. Society as a whole is always looking for the newest and least offensive label, but soon that label will be tarnished, and we shall move onto the next. Perhaps others would perseive perjorative connotations that I do not, but I see no reason to argue in favor of one or another. It's interesting that someone else would though...

(Anonymous)

Last post continued.....I promise I won't write this much again - oy- I'm just really into advocacy

But you know, it was a liberating realization, because I realized not only that I might have a little ADHD, Bipolar (well, that part's irrefutable), autism, and even a little OCD *actually, a LOT* in me, these deviations are present in the general population to a certain extent to varying degrees, only these tend to be in moderate amounts within the general distribution of the population. But we all have features of ADHD, OCD, autism, bipolar......everything except possibly the psychotic/schizophreniform disorders - Those aren't exactly common. But my point is that these panic attacks (or as the rather dilletantesque and somewhat ignorant lexicon of the general society has termed them, "meltdowns" - really, they're just panic attacks) are often misconstrued as some kind of utter loss of self-containment, and thus a "lack of maturity". This may be the case for some individuals with more pronounced cases of autism - particularly those accompanied by severe cognitive/developmental delays and mental retardation - but it has been my experience with my clientele that many of those on the higher-functioning end of the spectrum (including those with higher-functioning autism/Asperger syndrome) are in fact extremely mature for their age and rather well-adjusted socially. The only difficulty is that they tend to be bullied and ridiculed a lot for being different, and thus have a largely conditioned hypersensitivity toward criticism. However, considering as this is a socially-conditioned response to harassment by their peers, it is almost entirely situational. The majority of observational clinical studies which I have conducted have shown that kids with high-functioning autism/Asperger syndrome are very advanced and "mature" for their ages, although it tends to be moreso in the areas of higher-order logic and abstract reasoning (and believe me, it is one of many glaring misconceptions on the part of the psychiatric industry that people on the autism spectrum cannot reason abstractly - In fact, their entire reasoning IS abstract; in that they relate concepts on a completely different level than most people, including myself, do. I have also observed that those with Asperger syndrome tend to eventually outgrow it as they make more successive adjustments and approximations to their way of operating. What I have seen in my interactions with these people - both clinical and personal - is a tremendous amount of personal and psychological growth since diagnosis, sometimes within the span of a few months to a year. These people have an absolute knack for logical abilities, and thus they can adapt new methodologies quickly. Of course, some of them are rather stubborn about doing things a certain way, but they eventually learn that they have to give up their insistent need to do things "their way" in order to adjust to society. And they do indeed make that transition - I have seen these people adjust and overcome the obstacles of autism, and I have seen them really defeat their impediments in a very short time. They can change, and they do, relatively quickly. Because - at least in the case with the higher-functioning autistics without significant cognitive/developmental impairments (i.e. those with HFA/AS), they recognize that they have a vested interest in changing their game a little, and that they do full-throttle. I've seen these kids literally grab the bull by the horns......

(Anonymous)

AS and meds

i have AS been diagnosed 2-3 years ago before that i was labled with ADHD meds can have good and bad effects ritalin stratera and risperadol are the meds i used since i was 5 in that order i am currently on risperadolwich is the best one imo but still a bad amount of side effects
i hate that AS is classed as a disabiltiy but tbh it is and it aint a nice one as it messes with the mind loads
take a person off there meds and they wont tell they are off them and they start feeling confused i know it happend to me took off meds for test without knowing i was off untill i got told i lost a relationship in those weeks off and i never got it back

(Anonymous)

asperger

my daughters ex boyfriend has this condition and fails to make regular contact with his 2 year old son in fact he will go for months at a time without seeing him,now he wants to have him for the day un supervised.as he barely knows his son i have advised my daughter not to let him go out alone with his dad(not that he would because he dose'nt him)how do i put this across to her ex boyfriend without sounding predujice and in a way that he will understand

Re: asperger

You can't put it in a way that won't sound prejudiced, because you ARE prejudiced. Learn more about autism before you say a single word.

(Anonymous)

Removing Social Stigma of Mental Disease, Disorder, Different...

After the shootings in Aurora, CO I was discussing with a friend my thoughts on Mental Illnesses and how the social stigma related, prevents our society and school systems from addressing the at risk early. She insisted (in a very determined and exaggerated manner) that schools cannot address at risk children with mental disease because there are children with Aspergers and they would be singled out. I could not understand her reasoning. It seems to me that we are okay addressing and treating Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, Dyslexia... but if we see that the symptoms might be associated with a more traditionally unacceptable disorder (Psychosis, Schizophrenia Bi-Polar Disorder...) we ignore, shun, isolate and pretend.

My thought is that if we, as a society, accept that mental illness is not caused by bad behavior and should be treated with the same medical awareness and programs as we would, let's say for Cancer or Autism, could we identity and treat children early enough that they have learned coping skills before acting out in a way that is harmful to themselves or others. Mind you I have no idea what was behind the events in Colorado. I am only certain that this person is not healthy.

It concerns me that we are afraid to address one disease with a stigma attached to it because of how it might relate to another disease or disorder, that has become more "socially acceptable". I know the programs and funding etc do not exist. But does that mean we should continue ignoring the obvious problem that does exist. I also realize that not ever person with mental illness has extreme behavior. But again, does that mean we should continue to overlook those that have chronic health issues related to the mind. What if we could help some of these ailing people and in turn prevent the massacres that seem to me so preventable.

I read thru your blog and comments here. It seems that you have an excellent view of this world and am interested in your thoughts.

Thank you,

(Anonymous)

Am I an Aspie?

For most of my life I have had difficulty fitting in. I was drugged as a child for "hyperactivity," and have little interest in people. However, after 58 years of studying them, rather like studying a rat in a maze, except I am the rat, Ive learned to "get along," although I secretly relish the thought that maybe the world will go "kablewy" and all human beings will be wiped out in a nuclear war or something. Anyway, Im going off on a tangent. Recently a coworker suggested I do a test online, and I found that I have Aspergers and autistic traits. I subsequently did something called the AQ Test, and scored 36 and 34 in two separate trials. Apparently many Aspies score 32 and above. Now I have an appointment to be assessed. Strange thing is, I don't feel worried or overwhelmed by this at all. It feels more like - coming home. Weird, eh? Of course, I might be subclinical. I wouldnt be surprised. I dont fit into categories easily.

Re: Am I an Aspie?

Good luck on your assessment. Hope you get some answers.

The end of the world sounds boring. All the interesting things in the world seem to involve people, at some level.