Aspergers Syndrome, Can we Save it?

Persons diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome learned recently that the psychiatric community in the USA has determined that this disorder is so much like Autism that it should be diagnosed instead as a mild form of Autism. While there has been some overlap and similarities in Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, I am one psychologist who would have prefered that the two be more clearly separated, an outcome almost diametrically opposite from the one chosen by American psychiatry in its DSM-5 version (due out later this year).

While there are some advantages for these children to be seen as Autistic (access to research funds, better access to society’s supportive programs), these are outweighed by the negatives. It is less likely that adult and adolescent children with Aspergers will want to be identified as autistic. More important than the greater likelihood of stigmatization, is the prospect that the etiology and treatment of Aspergers will become hopelessly muddled and confused. Understanding of the disorder will be set back decades as will treatment and diagnostic issues. So what can be done?

There is a realistic prospect that US Psychiatry will change this decision the next time around, if advocacy groups apply pressure, however that prospect would require a wait of several years. A better approach is for the various advocacy groups tied to the disorder to develop a new institutional groundwork- one in which the funding for research, education and all things nonmedical are addressed outside the purview of mental health, and away from the insurance industry. While therapy may still need to rely on the medical establishment, the ICD-10 still can be used, at least for the near future, to capture the correct diagnosis (F-84.5).

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Published in: on January 21, 2013 at 6:52 pm  Comments (2)  
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Whistleblowers Can Be An Antidote to Fascism

More than a decade after the twin towers were attacked by foreign forces, the USA becomes more and more willing to curtail our bill of rights. While the initial reaction by the Bush regime was obviously excessive: waterboarding, warrantless wiretaps and other surveillance, the end of habeas corpus, and general forfeiture of our privacy rights, we all hoped that sanity would eventually, if gradually, return.

The election of a Democrat as president did little to change this picture. We may have stopped waterboarding, but there would be no way of being sure, given the lack of transparency. Otherwise the tendency to fascistic methods of top down control by the elite has remained – and in many cases it has grown; this was even more troubling to those few of us who still care about the principles that made the USA a beacon for freedom and human rights.

If you doubt this trend, just look at the 112th congress. Infamous for having a “do nothing” approach in which far less was accomplished and fewer bills passed than any other congress, this congress was nevertheless very productive in curtailing the rights of Americans. Bill after bill passed to end these rights, with large bipartisan support, and many of these bills would not have been thinkable, even under Chaney and the specter of the 911 attack.

Is there any way out of this gradual slide to a state in which individual rights are rare? We, of course, would need a more thoughtful media. This is unlikely to happen with the mainstream media who long ago lost its soul, its curiosity, and its forebrain. The best we can hope for there is a vibrant web and blog universe, although I think it is still an imperative to crack open the cable providers, forcing them to provide dozens of smaller less commercial cable channels with divergent voices.

For me, however, the most pressing need is to make it not only possible for whistleblowers to reveal the excesses, but to insure that they are protected afterwards. There has been a little progress with this project in some spheres, but there is no protection whatsoever for whistleblowers who work for the parts of out government most likely to be abused. Nada. No whistleblowers there. We need to put pressure on our legislators to balance the erosion of our rights by encouraging a voice for those working in the muck who discover the dirty laundry, and would like to air it. Sunshine is still a good antisceptic.