By Samantha Pierce
Is Asperger's Overdiagnosed?
Recently the above question, posed and supposedly answered in the affirmative in a pair of New York Times opinion editorials, has been making the rounds in public discourse. It is interesting that as awareness of autism spectrum disorders begins to rise the response of the public seems to be that autism spectrum disorders, of which Asperger's is one, are over diagnosed. I would love to see some research to back up such claims. Anecdotes do not equal data as the saying goes.
I think this represents a spilling over of a long standing conflict within the autism community. If you spend enough time in any autism related forum you will eventually find two different camps of opinion. There are those who divide the autistic community into the "real" autistics, those who are easily identified as having some sort of impairment (often non-verbal), and the "fake" autistics, those who are able to communicate with the neurotypical world (i.e. they can talk or at least write like they can talk). Then there are those who recognize that the "real" and "fake" autistics fall under the same umbrella if one is willing to take a careful look at how they experience the world.
Personally I have children who fall into both of these categories and I see this conflict as a harmful distraction for the autistic community. As different as my children may appear to be to the outside world, upon close examination they have many traits in common.
Now that the unsubstantiated claims that there are "real" and "fake" autistic people have hit the mainstream we are beginning to see why this conflict is so harmful in the first place. These unsubstantiated claims of over diagnosis are now being used to marginalize people that many have been fighting to bring into the mainstream.
Research into the matter indicates that autism spectrum disorders are likely under diagnosed. Anyone claiming otherwise needs to bring data to the table for rigorous evaluation.