So far, I’ve talked about three of the criteria the DSM-IV uses to define Asperger’s syndrome:

  • Qualitative impairment in social interaction.
  • Repetitive, stereotyped patterns of behavior, interest and activities.
  • A clinically significant degree of impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.

The other three criteria seem to be mainly for the purpose of keeping the description of Asperger’s distinct from other categories described in the DSM-IV.  Here are the first two:

There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age  2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years).

There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

These are the main things that distinguish Asperger’s syndrome from what is considered “classic autism.”  Some of the early signs of autism include a delay in language development or a delay in cognitive development.  Aside from that, many of the other traits of autism and Asperger’s can be the same, to the point that it is hard to say if Asperger’s is really something different from what is considered “high-functioning autism.”

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or the DSM-V) is tentatively scheduled for publication in 2012.  Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, there has been some discussion about removing this distinction:

“A panel session at a 2008 diagnosis-related autism research planning conference noted problems with the classification of AS as a distinct subgroup of ASD, and two of three breakout groups recommended eliminating AS as a separate diagnosis in future versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”

So it’s possible that within in a few years, the label for my brain will simply be “autism” rather than “Asperger’s syndrome.”

The last criterion for Asperger’s syndrome is also intended to keep it distinct from other diagnoses:

Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Development Disorder or Schizophrenia.

I don’t know much about the other Pervasive Development Disorders or about schizophrenia, so I don’t want to try to talk a lot about them here.  I have read that some people on the autistic spectrum were previously misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, so this may be partly in response to that.  At any rate, that takes care of all six criteria.

So now you know how complicated it is to make a useful label for the way the human brain works.

As I think about all this, I am thankful for the abilities God has given me– there are a lot of abilities that I often take for granted that are more difficult or impossible for others to do.

Even more so, I am thankful that God is with each of us in whatever struggles and weaknesses he allows into our lives.