Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thoughts on the DSM 5

So its been announced finally that the DSM V will definitely merge the autism and Asperger syndrome diagnosis.  As someone who would never have been diagnosed without Asperger syndrome being split into its own grouping, I'm kind of sad to see the name go.  There were a lot of positive cultural things that happened around the Asperger syndrome label with people who wrote books or made movies or made websites showing how there were some people who are different and its not all a bad thing.  Sure, sometimes there is crazy negativity that goes along with anything like this, which for me including not being allowed to serve a mission, a deep sense of social isolation at church from being excluded from the social bonding of being able to share mission experiences, being afraid of ignorant judgmental people at church, and a family member who seemed convinced Asperger syndrome really meant some kind of blend between Frotteurism and antisocial personality disorder.  But the negatives for me were really outweighed by finally figuring out what was going on inside my head, gaining a vocabulary to explain myself to other people, and discovering a community of people for whom experiences like mine weren't unique.  It went from feeling like my life represented some kind of isolated freakshow to understanding that there were many people like me who had joined together to form ways to build self respect.

The passing of the label will have a minimal influence on me personally.  I rarely talk about it to anyone I know in person and I can on a surface level pass as normal most of the time.  When I do talk about it the extra work of defining Asperger syndrome typically outweighs the feeling of risk that no one will believe me if I said I was autistic.  I can typically get away with saying that I'm what it looks like when you have a case of autism that is mild enough that at this stage in life you'd have to know me well to tell it was there.  I can pass well enough as normal and can be am picky enough about who I disclose to I can afford that.  I can definitely sympathize with people whose symptom obviousness or the choices of their caretakers prevent them enjoying such control over who knows and who doesn't.

Hopefully society will stop demonizing the condition as a way to do fundraising for their organizations and people will start to realize that when you have met one autistic you really have only met one autistic.  Maybe the world will stop having so many biases against and constraints on the disabled so that the label will be less of a stigma.  The name change leaves plenty to be afraid of, assuming we don't make for ourselves a better world.

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