The End of Asperger’s: An Analysis of the Decision to Remove Asperger’s Disorder from the DSM-5

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Carlye Vroom


Since first formally classified in 1994, Asperger’s disorder (AD) has been a highly controversial diagnosis. Some researchers have argued that it is indistinguishable from high-functioning autism; some have maintained that AD warrants its own diagnosis; and a final group of scholars have claimed that AD should not be considered a disorder but rather should be thought of as a normal human difference. The upshot of this controversy was the decision to eliminate the AD diagnosis from the fifth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). This paper explores the question of whether or not this removal of the AD diagnosis is warranted first by reviewing the research that has addressed the legitimacy of the AD diagnosis. The second part of the paper explores the idea that creating the AD label may have been—metaphorically speaking—equivalent to opening Pandora’s box, which implies that an enduring imprint has been left behind. Some scholars have provided evidence of such a long-term impact by arguing that the creation of the AD label has given rise to a new way to be a person. This paper ultimately contends that the position taken by the DSM-5 in eliminating the AD diagnosis is sound because AD should never have been considered a disorder in the first place. However, due consideration needs to be given to the enduring impact of the AD label. Without the AD label, individuals will need another way to define themselves. This paper advocates for the invention of a new term (e.g., Aspergian) that can be used to denote non-pathological instances of AD.


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Vroom, C. (2013). The End of Asperger’s: An Analysis of the Decision to Remove Asperger’s Disorder from the DSM-5. SFU Educational Review, 6.