Is this an Asperger’s or Level 1 ASD?

May 14, 2021 – When billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk revealed he had Asperger’s syndrome on his recent Saturday Night Live As a concert host, many applauded his transparency and ability to speak out about an often stigmatized condition.

Others, while appreciating the honesty, point out that Asperger’s terminology is outdated. It is no longer considered a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the “bible” used by mental health professionals to diagnose conditions. Instead, it falls under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). the DSM was last updated in 2013.

ASD is now defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and non-verbal communication, and restricted / repetitive behaviors.” The association points out that there is a wide range of abilities and characteristics in people with the disease.

Asperger’s and several other similar disorders previously diagnosed separately are now called ASD, says Matthew Siegel, MD, vice president of medical affairs for the developmental disorders service line at Maine Behavioral Healthcare in Portland, which specializes in treatment. autism spectrum disorders. The main reason the change was made was that doctors were unable to make reliable diagnoses of Asperger and several others. autism– similar conditions based on symptoms and patient presentation, which vary widely, says Siegel. Researchers could not reliably reproduce these different categories of autism in their studies either, he says.

“So the decision was made to treat it as a spectrum disorder and try to encompass the significant differences between people with autism,” says Siegel. The name change recognizes this difference in severity in people with ASD, says Siegel, who is also an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine. “We assess the severity of the symptoms instead of trying to break it down into different diagnoses.” Now doctors diagnose ASD at level 1, 2 or 3, says Siegel, with level 1 diagnosing high-level patients with less severe problems. “The treatment has to match the severity,” he says.

The new term is less pejorative, says Victor M. Fornari, MD, vice president of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, NY. “The Autistic Person” sounds pejorative, rather than ASD, which reflects a broader spectrum. The ASD reflects a more cohesive understanding of the disorder occurring along a continuum. “

As to why people cling to this outdated term, Siegel says that may be the term used during the initial diagnosis.

“I think what’s exciting is that if Elon Musk is pointing out that he’s autistic – whether he’s using an outdated term or not – it’s that the public is seeing someone lift the stigma of diagnoses like autism, whatever the name. called, “he says.” And people can see that people with autism, some, can be successful and be a part of our society. “

WebMD Health News


Victor M. Fornari, MD, vice president, child and adolescent psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, NY.

Matthew Siegel, MD, vice president of medical affairs, developmental disorders service line, Maine Behavioral Healthcare, Portland; Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, Tufts University School of Medicine.

American Psychiatric Association: “What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?”

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