So according to some, Asperger's Syndrome no longer exists. In the new DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association) the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome have now been merged with the diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
This shift in the definition of Aspreger's Syndrome has been a long time coming but is this merging of symptoms enough to fully provide a working organising idea behind this complex disorder?
Autistic traits are now recognised as occurring along a spectrum - with severe autism at one end and a higher-functioning, ‘milder’ form (formerly known as Asperger’s syndrome) at the other. The core areas affected, to varying degrees, are ability to understand and use non-verbal and verbal communication; ability to understand social behaviour and behave in socially appropriate ways; ability to think and behave flexibly; and over- or under-sensitivity to sensory information. Even people labelled as having ASD can vary in the severity and number of traits they display, ranging from severe learning difficulties and low IQ to high IQ and a talent for learning that brings acclaim.
It seems remarkably odd to us that a person who needs specialist help and assisted housing can be included in the same category as a professor of physics, say, or a gifted poet or musician, or a computer programmer who is married with a family - individuals who, despite having ASD have managed to make an accommodation with the world and learn enough of the ‘rules’ to function highly efficiently and relate to people.
We offer a new definition of ASD: 'caetextia' or 'context blindness' defined as a disorder manifesting in the inability to adjust behaviours or perception to deal appropriately with interacting variables.
We suggest that, by looking at the evolutionary history of mammals and humankind, we can arrive at a more comprehensive way of viewing the autistic spectrum than has been offered to date - and that this new understanding can help us help those who seek therapy for psychological difficulties. We are going to put forward the idea that occurring throughout the entire autistic spectrum is a phenomenon that has not previously been identified; that a remarkable mental capacity, one that came to the fore once mammals started to evolve, is missing from all people on the autistic spectrum; and that this major deficit, while it may be just one aspect of what is missing in autism, is uniquely what is missing at the higher performing end of the Asperger’s spectrum. It is the ability to read context.
Find out more about caetextia at caetextia.com.
Discover the argument for why this new definition is needed in this video of Irish psychologist Joe Griffin exploring this idea: