What is Aspergers?

Aspergers Syndrome was named in honour of Hans Asperger, an Austrian psychiatrist and paediatrician. The term “Asperger’s syndrome” became popular in the 1980’s. The first book in English on Asperger’s syndrome was written by Uta Frith in 1991 and the condition was subsequently recognised in formal diagnostic manuals later in the 1990s.

Under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Version 4 (DSM-4), Asperger Disorder had its own diagnosis, indicating that the person had severe and sustained social impairments, but impairments are not as severe in language and communication. A person with Asperger Disorder is usually in the normal intelligence range.  Under the DSM-5, Asperger Disorder has been removed.

DSM-5 states that “individuals with a well-established DSM-4 diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder”.  This means that people diagnosed with any of the three autism spectrum disorders under the DSM-IV criteria should receive a diagnosis under DSM-5, ameliorating many people’s fears that the new manual would mean a loss of a diagnosis for those previously diagnosed, particularly with Asperger Syndrome or PDD-NOS.

Aspergers, a brief history.

Aspergers was named in honour of Hans Asperger (1906–80), an Austrian psychiatrist and paediatrician. An English psychiatrist, Lorna Wing, popularised the term “Asperger’s syndrome” in a 1981 publication; the first book in English on Asperger syndrome was written by Uta Frith in 1991 and the condition was subsequently recognised in formal diagnostic manuals later in the 1990s.

One of the changes in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) released in May 2013 eliminated Asperger syndrome as a separate diagnosis, and included it under autism spectrum disorders. ASD is now rated on a scale ranging from severe, through moderate, to mild, based on clinical presentation.

Asperger Syndrome is no longer considered a separate diagnosis, it now falls under the banner of autism spectrum disorders.