25 Nov 2019

Asperger is also just autism

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Asperger is also just autism There are people who don’t think Asperger’s syndrome is autistic. These people think that Asperger is so far removed from classical autism that it does not even fall into the same spectrum. This is often because they do not want to be associated with autism. The reasons for this range from refusing to accept that they are autistic to the negativity that accompanies autism.

Let me be clear; Asperger falls within the autism spectrum. That it is not the same as classical autism is also very clear. But it is still autism. In fact, in the DSM 5 it is the case that Asperger’s syndrome is no longer mentioned. It falls under the heading of autism. Tony Attwood wrote the following about this change:

The deletion of the term "Asperger's syndrome" will have a negative impact on the sense of identity of adults who have benefited from the term, have set up peer groups and have access to literature and support groups on the Internet based on common characteristics and experiences. Clinical experience shows that most adults with Asperger's syndrome and their family members want to keep the term.

Tony Attwood

And as I said before, I do agree with this comment. However, there are reasons why the term ‘Asperger’ should no longer be used. The reason to keep the term is to keep the information available for people who are looking for the term. But for the acceptance of autism it seems better to me to drop the term.

The nasty taste of Asperger

Hans Aspeger Since a few years it has become known that Hans Asperger was not a nice man to say the least. Why? For this we have to go back in time to the Second World War. During this time Hans Asperger did his research on children. He did this for Nazi Germany. According to sources he regularly referred children to the infamous Am Spiegelgrund Clinic near Vienna. In this clinic the euthanasia program was carried out by the Nazis. It is estimated that almost 800 children were referred by him.

So nowadays, there are also a lot of people who want to completely drop the term Asperger as soon as possible. People no longer want to be mentioned in the same breath as a man who has caused the death of many innocent children. And this is quite understandable. I myself was not aware of the crimes committed by Hans Asperger at that time. I was pointed out by someone on twitter who saw the hashtag ash in my bio:

After talking to @cr0nch_noodle for some time, I went to investigate myself and soon came across the stories as I describe them above. So my intention is to delete the term Asperger from my dictionary.

But what are we supposed to call Asperger?

Here’s a crazy idea; let’s just call it autism. After all, Asperger’s syndrome falls within the autism spectrum. So it’s just autism. Nowadays, the DSM 5 works with different levels. What we used to call Asperger is autism level 1.

Whether it is useful to work with the different levels is a different discussion, I think, but at least it ensures that we can drop the term Asperger. However, I also notice that this is not easy to do. It is often easier for the outside world to find information about Asperger than about “Autism level 1”. But in time I hope that we can drop the term Asperger and replace it with autism.

Different terms divide the community

Another drawback of different terms for autism is the division that this entails within the autistic community. Some people feel excluded when it is said, for example, that Asperger is “not really autistic”, or that their autism is “less bad than classical autism”. So even within the community there are people who say they don’t have autism because they are “Aspies” (have Asperger’s syndrome). I myself called myself an Aspie for a while. I used this term from American autistic people who wanted to indicate that they have Asperger.

Nowadays I don’t call myself that anymore, I have abandoned the term after I had done some research. And I encourage everyone to stop using the term and switch to autism. Or a person with autism if you like it better, as long as we let the term Asperger gradually disappear.

By calling us what we are, I also hope to make the division within the community less and less. It is true that my autism is not the same as another person’s autism, but it is still autism. And we will have to support each other to get more acceptance of neurotypical people. It is, in my view, an important step towards this goal; coming together as a community and not dividing ourselves into all kinds of different terms or denominations.

And in the end we help each other with that. By coming together as a group, I think we can achieve more. So from now on; Asperger’s syndrome is just autism.

Thanks for reading
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Tags: autisme asperger honger-naar-informatie 
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David Westerink
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I am David, born in 1984 and I'm autistic. I write blog posts and advocate for autism acceptance. I'm willing to talk to anyone about anything.

I have my own podcast (in Dutch) about autism and neurodiversity! Checkout the AutCast!

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