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Is Aspergers Elitist? Exploring Autism Terminology Debates

Apr 29, 2024

Is Asperger's elitist? This query has caused controversy among those in the autism spectrum and experts alike. Exploring the transition from Asperger's syndrome to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and its implications on diagnosis, understanding, and perceptions of elitism in Asperger's syndrome, this blog post will consider issues such as the "high/low functioning" dichotomy, mainstream media influences, and examples of individuals advocating for specific labels within the autistic community.

Furthermore, addressing concerns surrounding terminology is crucial; hence we will consider potential new classifications under ASD while emphasizing the importance of ensuring proper support based on individual needs. Finally, our discussion will touch upon striving for inclusivity in autism spectrum language and fostering collaboration between professionals and autistic adults to shape the future of autism terminology.

Explore with us the intricacies of whether Asperger's Syndrome could be perceived as a form of elitism, delving into this perplexing issue and seeking to randomize our understanding.

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Table of Contents

The Evolution of Autism Terminology

Autism terminology has come a long way, baby. The APA has advanced the phraseology encompassing autism by introducing ASD to supersede Asperger's syndrome and other subtypes. Why? Because autistic people are unique and deserve individualized care.

The transition from Asperger's syndrome to ASD

In 2013, APA released DSM-5, which combined all previous diagnoses related to autism under one umbrella term: ASD. This change aimed at simplifying diagnosis procedures while recognizing the diversity of symptoms and abilities within the autism community.

Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician, first described what he termed "autistic psychopathy" in 1944, a condition that would later bear his name, Asperger's Syndrome. Asperger's observations highlighted a group of individuals—mainly boys—who exhibited normal intelligence and language development but had difficulties in social interaction and displayed repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. For many years, Asperger's Syndrome was considered a separate condition from autism, distinguished by these characteristics.

However, the reclassification of Asperger's Syndrome into the broader ASD in the DSM-5 has led to a complex controversy. On one hand, it reflects a better understanding of autism as a spectrum, where the lines between different diagnoses are not always clear. This inclusive approach is aimed at ensuring that all individuals on the autism spectrum receive appropriate support and recognition.

On the other hand, the controversy also delves into the historical context of Hans Asperger's work during World War II, with some researchers arguing that Asperger was complicit in the Nazi regime's eugenics policies. These allegations suggest that Asperger referred children to the Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna, where children deemed "unfit" were euthanized. This dark aspect of Asperger's history has led to further debate about the ethics of continuing to use his name in diagnosing ASD.

Impact on diagnosis and understanding

  • Better recognition: Clinicians can now focus on identifying individual needs rather than trying to fit patients into rigid categories based solely on symptomatology.
  • Avoiding misdiagnosis: The broader definition helps prevent misdiagnosis of individuals who don't meet all criteria for classic autism or other developmental disorders.
  • Increased awareness: The shift to ASD has led to a greater understanding of the diversity within the autism community, reducing stigma and promoting acceptance.

While this transition has been largely welcomed, some individuals diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome may feel overlooked or minimized under the broader ASD label. Ongoing conversations surrounding terminology evolution must continue respectfully amongst all parties involved.

Perceptions of Elitism in Asperger's Syndrome

Some argue that using terms like 'Aspie' or 'Asperger's' is elitist as it separates individuals with this diagnosis from others on the spectrum. Some contend that this view can lead to misapprehensions regarding the intricacies of autism, reinforcing preconceived notions and potentially obstructing access to essential aid for those in need.

The Problem with "High/Low Functioning" Labels

The application of labels like "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" to autism subtypes has been contested for its oversimplification of a multifaceted disorder. These classifications may inadvertently contribute to the notion that people with Asperger syndrome are somehow superior or more capable than other autistic individuals, further reinforcing an elitist perspective.

The Influence of Mainstream Media and Pop Culture

Mainstream media representations of autism, particularly characters diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, often focus on savant-like abilities or exceptional intelligence while downplaying social challenges faced by these individuals. Such portrayals may create unrealistic expectations about what it means to be autistic and foster negative attitudes towards non-autistic people. Research shows that Asperger people have difficulty with social interactions and communication, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

In response to concerns surrounding elitism within the Asperger community, some have called for greater inclusivity in language used when discussing ASD diagnoses - including replacing specific terms like 'Aspie' or 'Aspergers' by referring to all individuals on the spectrum as 'autistic.'

Pros and Cons of Inclusive Language

  • Pros: Advocates for this approach argue that it promotes a more inclusive understanding of autism and helps dismantle harmful stereotypes.

  • Cons: Others contend that removing specific labels may lead to confusion about individual experiences and needs within the autistic community.

In order to address these concerns, it is essential for both professionals and autistic adults alike to engage in open dialogue about terminology preferences while remaining sensitive to varying perspectives. By creating a space of mutual consideration and appreciation, we can strive to build an environment where all those with ASD feel embraced - no matter if they prefer the label of Asperger syndrome or not.

Key Takeaway: The use of terms like 'Aspie' or 'Asperger's' can be perceived as elitist and contribute to misunderstandings about autism. Labels such as "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" oversimplify the condition, potentially reinforcing an elitist perspective. Greater inclusivity in language used when discussing ASD diagnoses is called for, but it is important to engage in open dialogue about terminology preferences while remaining sensitive to varying perspectives.

Individuals Advocating for Specific Labels

Despite concerns over elitism, some people diagnosed with either Asperger syndrome or an autism spectrum condition believe these specific labels help others comprehend their unique characteristics better. They argue that having a distinct term helps outsiders understand their experiences more effectively.

Chris Bonnello and Sarah Weston case examples

Chris Bonnello, a former teacher turned author and public speaker who has Asperger's, believes the label is important to him as it allows people to recognize his strengths and challenges. Similarly, Sarah Weston, an artist on the spectrum, embraces her diagnosis of Asperger's as part of her identity and feels it empowers her in sharing her story.

Self-advocacy within the autistic community

  • Promoting understanding: Many individuals with ASD or AS feel that using specific terms like "Aspie" or "Asperger's" can help non-autistic people understand their unique experiences and abilities better.

  • Fostering pride: Some members of the autistic community have reclaimed these labels as badges of honor, taking pride in their neurodiversity while advocating for acceptance from society at large.

  • Navigating support systems: In certain cases, having a specific label such as Asperger's may make it easier for individuals to access appropriate resources tailored to their needs. This could include specialized therapies or accommodations in educational settings.

It's essential to bear in mind that the discussion concerning labels and phrases doesn't just pertain to Asperger syndrome. Within the autism community, ongoing debates focus on whether terms such as "high-functioning" or "low-functioning" should be used at all due to their potential for reinforcing stereotypes and misunderstandings.

In order for these conversations to be productive, it's essential that we listen to autistic voices themselves - both those who embrace specific labels like Asperger's and those who prefer more inclusive language under the umbrella of ASD. By engaging in respectful dialogue with one another, we can work towards finding common ground on how best to represent and support individuals across the spectrum.

Key Takeaway: Some individuals diagnosed with Asperger syndrome or autism spectrum condition believe that specific labels help others comprehend their unique characteristics better, despite concerns over elitism. The debate over labels and terminology is ongoing within the broader autism community, and it's essential to listen to autistic voices themselves in order to find common ground on how best to represent and support individuals across the spectrum.

Addressing Concerns Surrounding Terminology

Academic groups are exploring alternative subgroups under ASD to offer clearer distinctions among different types of conditions present across spectrums. This may help alleviate concerns about elitism within the Asperger's community.

Potential New Classifications Under ASD

The APA is seeking to refine the categorization of autism spectrum disorders, with a view towards recognizing the various intensities and forms encountered in ASD sufferers. One proposal is to introduce severity levels based on individual needs and challenges faced by each person diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. By providing a more granular classification system, it becomes simpler for those not on the autism spectrum to comprehend the broad array of experiences and capacities present in autistic individuals.

Ensuring Proper Support Based on Individual Needs

  • Educational support: With better-defined classifications, educators can tailor their teaching methods according to specific needs, ensuring that all students receive appropriate guidance throughout their educational journey.

  • Mental health care: Mental health professionals will have a deeper understanding of how varying degrees of autism affect individuals differently. Consequently, they can provide targeted therapy sessions designed specifically for those who require additional assistance or specialized interventions.

  • Social services: Government agencies responsible for allocating resources towards social programs aimed at helping autistic adults lead fulfilling lives will be able to distribute funds more effectively if they have access to accurate information regarding specific diagnoses within the broader umbrella term "ASD."

Collaboration between professionals and autistic adults is crucial for these potential new classifications to be effective. By involving those with lived experience in the development of diagnostic criteria, we can ensure that any changes made are both accurate and respectful.

Addressing concerns surrounding terminology is an ongoing process, but it's important for all parties involved to approach the conversation with empathy and understanding. As our knowledge about autism spectrum disorders continues to grow, so too should our language evolve to reflect this newfound insight. The ultimate goal should always be inclusivity and proper support for every individual on the spectrum.

Key Takeaway: Academic groups are exploring alternative subgroups under ASD to offer clearer distinctions among different types of conditions present across spectrums. The American Psychiatric Association is proposing new ways to classify autism spectrum disorders, aiming for a more nuanced understanding of the various manifestations and severities found in individuals with ASD. This will help ensure proper support based on individual needs and promote inclusivity within the autistic community.

What causes the perceived elitism?

It's important to understand that behaviors perceived as elitist among those diagnosed with AS (Asperger Syndrome) or ASD may not stem from a sense of superiority, but rather from common traits such as egocentrism, mindblindness, or theory of mind.

Understanding the Root Causes Behind Perceived Elitism

  • Egocentrism: Many individuals with autism have difficulty understanding other people's perspectives and emotions, which can lead to a focus on their own experiences and needs above others’ (Hobson, 1984).

  • Mindblindness: Some autistic individuals struggle with understanding mental states in themselves and others, which can come across as aloofness or indifference towards non-autistic people (Lombardo & Baron-Cohen, 2011)

  • Theory of Mind: People with autism often struggle with the ability to attribute thoughts, feelings, intentions, and beliefs to oneself and others, which can result in misunderstandings about social interactions (Baron-Cohen, 2001).

Avoiding Misunderstandings and Misinterpretations

To foster better communication between autistic individuals and neurotypical people, it's crucial to be aware of these underlying traits and their potential impact on social interactions. Educating oneself about the unique challenges faced by those with ASD can help create a more inclusive environment for everyone involved.

Open dialogue between autistic individuals and neurotypicals can lead to increased understanding and acceptance. By sharing personal experiences, addressing misconceptions, and seeking common ground, both parties can work together towards greater inclusivity in society as a whole.

Recognizing that autism is a spectrum disorder with varying degrees of severity will help dispel any notions of elitism among those diagnosed with AS or ASD. Emphasizing the importance of individualized support based on unique needs encourages empathy and understanding from all sides.

The Future of Autism Terminology

Debates surrounding autism terminology continue to evolve, with the goal of creating a more inclusive community where everyone feels heard and respected. Collaboration between professionals and autistic adults is essential in moving towards a future where autism terminology reflects the diverse experiences of those on the spectrum without perpetuating stereotypes or inadvertently fostering elitism.

Striving for inclusivity in autism spectrum language

When it comes to inclusive language within the autism community, input from both professionals and autistic adults is crucial. By involving those who have firsthand experience with ASD, future terminology can accurately reflect their experiences. This collaborative approach ensures that no one feels excluded or marginalized by labels used to describe their condition.

Collaboration between professionals and autistic adults

  • Educational workshops: Hosting workshops where experts in the field work alongside autistic individuals can foster open dialogue about preferred terms and potential changes to existing classifications.

  • Social media campaigns: Utilizing social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook allows people on the spectrum, along with their families and friends, to voice opinions on current terminology debates.

  • Publishing research studies: Encouraging academic researchers studying ASD-related topics to collaborate with autistic individuals can help ensure that research findings are accurately interpreted and communicated to the public.

By working together, professionals and autistic adults can create a more inclusive environment where everyone feels heard and respected. This collaboration is essential in moving towards a future where autism terminology reflects the diverse experiences of those on the spectrum without perpetuating stereotypes or inadvertently fostering elitism.

It is imperative for all involved, such as psychologists, teachers, guardians and those on the autism spectrum themselves, to participate in ongoing dialogues concerning changes in terms associated with ASD. By doing so, we can work collectively towards creating an inclusive community that embraces diversity while providing support tailored to individual needs.

Key Takeaway: Collaboration between professionals and autistic adults is crucial in creating a more inclusive environment where everyone feels heard and respected. This approach ensures that no one feels excluded or marginalized by labels used to describe their condition, moving towards a future where autism terminology reflects the diverse experiences of those on the spectrum without perpetuating stereotypes or inadvertently fostering elitism.

FAQs in Relation to Aspergers Elitism

What is the IQ of someone with Asperger's?

Intelligence varies among individuals with Asperger's, but many have average or above-average IQs.

Can people with Asperger's lead fulfilling lives?

Yes, with appropriate support and accommodations, people with Asperger's can excel in various aspects of life.

Do all people with Asperger's have high IQs?

No, intelligence levels among individuals with Asperger's vary.

Why is the term "Asperger's" no longer used?

The term was removed from the DSM-5 due to its association with Hans Asperger, who had controversial ties during World War II, and is now included under the broader Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.


Just because someone has a high IQ, doesn't mean they don't need support. Let's get past myths around super powers and work on creating a world where everyone can get support for things they struggle with and also leverage their unique strengths.

Apr 29, 2024

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