A PARENT'S TAKE ON DIAGNOSIS AND THE
When most of think of diagnosis by a doctor we
usually think of stethoscopes, blood tests, x-rays, or other less
pleasant and more intrusive probings and proddings. However, to
with Autism, Asperger's
syndrome or other developmental disorder, you will probably
get to keep your clothes on during the examination and you won’t
find the doctor’s surgery full of high tech machinery. The doctor
will mainly want to talk to you, and perhaps your family and gain
an understanding through observing and listening to you.
Looking for a cluster of symptoms
The reason for this rather primitive form of medical
examination is that the Doctor will be seeking to ascertain the
extent to which you fit in with certain diagnostic criteria for
a disorder of the mind, in this case Autism Spectrum Disorder, and
this the tricky bit, he or she is not just looking for one symptom
or characteristic, but a group of them. And to make matters even
more tricky, the cluster of characteristics
are, individually, what you would find in literally hundreds of
millions of people around the world.
For example, how many people do you know who display
“apparently compulsive adherence to nonfunctional routines or rituals”
or “marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation”?
So rather than go through the laborious process of diagnosing everyone's
ritualistic, self-centered, and tactless family members with Autism Spectrum Disorders, a group of psychiatrists came up with what is
affectionately known as DSM-IV, or the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition.
To diagnose or not to diagnose
Okay, no one starts off with a 4th edition; they
start with the first and revise it several times. The purpose of
this document is to attempt to create consistency of diagnosis,
so that a person who is considered rude and obnoxious in one culture
is less likely to be diagnosed as having a major mental disorder
in another culture. So what happens with Autism Spectrum Disorders,
as it does with other disorders of the mind, is the diagnosing professional
is seeking to ascertain whether a person has certain characteristics,
and has sufficient numbers of them and intensity of them to qualify
for a diagnosis. So someone who has serious difficulty holding a
conversation, one of the criteria for autistic disorder, but has
no other of the characteristics, would not qualify for the diagnosis.
The diagnostic criteria for High Functioning Autism
and Asperger’s Syndrome are very similar in the DSM-IV, and this
is why many people, including qualified psychiatrists, treat the
disorders as if they are the same condition. Then the DSM-IV has
no reference to Autism Spectrum Disorders, but speaks only of Pervasive
Developmental Disorders. Autism and Asperger’s syndrome are covered
by both, but Autism may be called Autistic Disorder or AS instead,
while Asperger’s syndrome may be called, Asperger syndrome, Aspergers
syndrome, Asperger or just AS.
It can be a very emotional experience having your
daughter diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and having to try to
assimilate all these terms, and come to terms with very nebulous
diagnostic criteria, was not a lot of fun.
Click here for the full range of Asperger's and autism fact sheets and personal stories
This personal story is under the copyright of www.autism-help.org
and may be reproduced under the conditions outlined on the Contact