Okay; we’re now on the third criterion from the DSM-IV for the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.  This one has only one part:

The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

On the face of it, it may seem like there’s not much to say about this criterion.  Maybe this is the criterion that separates those diagnosed with Asperger’s from those who are merely considered not very social and a bit obsessive in their interests.  Asperger’s is sometimes seen as a “trendy” diagnosis in recent years, so perhaps this is a measure to make sure that people don’t become preoccupied with getting a label if it’s not particularly useful.  After all, practically everyone can identify with at least some of the traits I’ve talked about so far at some point in their lives.

I think this criterion helps to highlight something interesting about the way the label is applied, though.  I learned about my Asperger’s because I sought help and answers after struggling with anxiety and depression during my time at grad school.  (Actually, these have been lifelong struggles for me, but the high-pressure environment of grad school made them much more apparent.)  Currently, the areas that I find most difficult in my life are the two that are mentioned here– social (forming relationships) and occupational (finding a career).  These are common struggles for “Aspies.”

However, I can easily imagine someone with virtually the same brain chemistry as me coping with life just fine without ever learning about Asperger’s or getting diagnosed with that label.  After all, I did fine for 26 years without knowing about it!  I can look back and realize now all of the ways that God provided for me throughout my life the strength and support I needed.  And I believe that my diagnosis and all of the things I am learning about myself now are yet more provisions from him.

It’s like I said before; Asperger’s is just a human label– God knows me better than I know myself, and I trust that he knows what he is doing.

I do think it’s important to take this criterion into account when you see statistics that say things like “People with Asperger’s are prone to anxiety and depression.”  While it’s useful to be aware of such a correlation, it’s possible that causation could go both ways.  Yes, perhaps people with Asperger’s are more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety; but at the same time, an “Aspie” who doesn’t struggle with something is not likely to be diagnosed in the first place!

Since Asperger’s was defined, there has been much speculation about famous historical figures that may have been on the autistic spectrum based on descriptions of their behavior.  (It’s really popular to mention Albert Einstein, but of course everyone wants to be like Einstein, so I’m not sure I believe that story.)

But the fact is, if autism works as a spectrum, then the line between having Asperger’s and not having it will necessarily be fuzzy.

Don’t worry; even though there are three more criteria in the diagnosis, I think I will be able to talk about them all in one post.  : )