Following on from Part one, which admittedly didn't actually tell you anything about the issue (just provided background), this post will look at some of the arguments for merging the labels. I'll look at "against" in the post after this.
First, I want to clear up a couple of things.
Aspergers *IS* Autism
Aspergers has always been an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In fact, for a few years, it was popular to refer to it as "Aspergers Autism".
I'm making this point because in reading some of the "negative" posts around the internet, it's become obvious that some people think they're entirely separate conditions.
There have always been people with Aspergers who want to distance themselves from Autism. I can remember struggling with acceptance of the word "Autism" when my son and I first got the label. The reason is simple; we've all be tainted by Hollywood's take on Autism or by our own experiences with severely autistic children. It's very clear that children with Kanner's autism are different in many ways from those with Aspergers Autism. Somehow it seems easier to accept the relatively unheard of label of "Aspergers" than it is to accept "Autism".
PDD NOS *IS* Autism
Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is also Autism. It's a label given to people whom doctors are sure fit on the Autism spectrum but don't really satisfy all the criteria. PDD NOS is also affected by the changes to the DSM. It's probable that if Aspergers is merged with Autism, PDD NOS will be merged too.
Arguments for Merging the Labels
Because the Two are Fundamentally the Same
This is obviously the most important reason. If the two "disorders" are essentially the same, then it follows that the same sorts of intervention and support is required. Pooling the resources should (in theory) generate a lot of centrally administered and positive resources for everyone.
One of the best ways to test this idea is to presume that the word "Aspergers" no longer exists and that the new word is "Autism". A google search for these words makes it clear that Autism provides roughly five times the number of resources - Aspergers gives 2,960,000 hits and Autism, 15,500,000. I had a look at many of the links in the first page of results and found that most of the autism articles which appeared would be equally well suited to aspergers.
I guess this supports the theory.
No discussion would be complete without at least a mention of the "politically correct" vibe at the heart of so many posts on the topic. Political correctness is a "nice" thing but it never represents reality. You see this kind of reaction in all forms of discrimination. Political correctness corresponds to an ideal. We would like those with more severe forms of autism to feel less discriminated against, so we become "brothers". I don't personally accept this argument but I've seen it quite often lately on blogs and discussion forums. My point here is simply; wishing something does not make it so.
Don't get me wrong. I don't feel superior to people with other forms of autism. Many of these people are everyday heroes and much better people than I. It's hard for me to decide whether joining them will be a vote of support or whether it will simply result in a group of very verbal "auties" drowning out those with lower functioning. After all, isn't that more or less the same effect that so many aspies complain about when it comes to "autism speaks"?
Rubbing off Positives
The rubbing off positives argument suggests that the Aspergers label has benefited from a great deal of positive influence recently. So much so that it's almost become "fashionable" particularly with TV shows like "Bones", "The Big Bang Theory" and "The IT Crowd" promoting "Geek Chic". More recently, aspies have been tackling the theory that we are without empathy with great success. The belief is that by folding Aspergers into Autism, we will be able to bring about positive changes in an area which still carries a stigma.
This idea has merit. If we could channel all of the work that Aspies have been doing recently into Autism, I'm sure that we could "lift the perception" of the label. There are however a few things which need to be taken into consideration.
1. For this to work, the Aspergers activists would need to start promoting "Autism" instead of "Aspergers". It would mean that blogs and forums would need to change names - I've already seen a bit of this happening - and it would have technical ramifications which could cause problems with sites and links for years to come.
2. Classic Autism would need to be preserved; There would need to be a commitment from the "Aspergers" community to ensure that people with other kinds of autism are given an equal voice. This isn't as easy as it sounds because people with severe forms of autism are considerably less vocal than most people with Aspergers. It's dangerously easy to "drown them out".
We ARE disabled
This too is tied up with the whole concept of "Geek Chic". Some of the overwhelmingly positive members of the Aspergers community, probably myself included, often give the impression that Aspergers is not a disability. It's very clear that one's "level of disablement" is impacted by a lot of factors, not just one's label. For example; there are environmental, social and acceptance factors to consider too.
I'm positive that my deafness has prevented me from having some of the worst issues of noise intolerance and distraction. It has also forced me to read more widely than I otherwise would have. Many of my peers with (sometimes) lesser issues have greater difficulty coping with situations than I do. Being freed from one overloading sense seems to have done me a lot of good. I've also grown up in a much more sheltered environment than other people and because of my hearing loss, I got early intervention even though my aspergers was, then undiagnosed.
Those aspies who struggle with their day-to-day lives see the merging of the labels as an opportunity to obtain more funding and better support. It's a fair call and I'm certain that it will provide access to these. My only concern is; where is the money coming from?.
I'm sure that I've hardly scraped the surface of this issue and I plan to cover arguments from the other side in my next post. In the meantime, if anyone has other reasons for wanting the labels merged, I'd be quite keen to hear them.