When it comes to sticking diagnostic labels on people, I’ve always been in favour of diagnosis and treatment but I’m starting to change my mind.
Instead, I’m thinking that we need to be more cautious about where we start sticking labels, especially when those labels might have consequences down the track.
The American Psychiatric Association will be releasing the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in May 2013.
Part of the changes to the new diagnostic criterion is the reclassification of Aspergers into the broader umbrella term “autism spectrum disorder,” which will now apply for all children and adults with some form of autism. This means that people with a sprinkling of traits (ie the equivalent to a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands on a serving of ice cream) will be in the same camp as those with severe autism. This involves a huge shift in how people currently defined as “Asbergers” will be placed or “categorised”. I also suggest that people who might have accepted or even celebrated being “aspy”, might prefer things just the way they are. They are and always have been , their own people.
This new classification fails to address society’s understanding of what it means to be “autistic” and how individuals or parents might feel when someone who is “a bit different” is labelled “autistic”, when quite clearly they are not. It is also a huge leap, especially in terms of social stigma, for someone who might be somewhat asbergersish and something of a Sheldon from Big Bang Theory or perhaps an IT geek or scientist. With any diagnosis there is grief and there is no need to compound that grief by sticking on highly emotive labels which simply don’t fit.
It seems to me that this new umbrella terms is really going to make an already confusing mess, only more confusing and will turn people away from a diagnosis and in the process, away from possible help and understanding.
Labels are good when it enables people to get the help they need but I don’t believe that can happen with a one-size fits all diagnosis. It ends up becoming meaningless. It either waters down the serious difficulties some individuals experience or paints a fairly sociable kid as a loner.
It doesn’t work.
After being misdiagnosed myself with osteo-arthritis myself which has a totally different line of treatment to my auto-immune disease, I know that you have to be very careful when you apply labels and try to make them stick.
Just ask my dog!
What do you think?