My child has an old diagnosis of Asperger’s, what does this mean?


You may have heard that as of May 2013, a new version of the manual used by professionals for the diagnosis of mental and developmental disorders (DSM) was brought out. With this new manual, the way we look at a few developmental disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) changed. Instead of these disorders being recognised separately, they were combined under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This has caused some confusion for individuals who were diagnosed with one of these disorders and parents of children with these disorders. If this might be you, you’re probably wondering what this change means. Below we’ll discuss what this means for you and where to from here. 

Why did they change it?


As even the experts in mental health and development do not know everything there is to know about these disorders, the DSM is an ever changing document that is updated when research reveals new information. The reason that this particular change was made was because they found that specialists were inconsistent in how they diagnosed PDD and Asperger’s Syndrome and where there is inconsistency there is the chance that people are being incorrectly diagnosed or missing out on a diagnosis when they should have been given one. There was also inequality in the support provided to people with these diagnoses; some would receive support easily, while others were denied support. It was found that Asperger’s and ASD shared a lot of symptoms but differed in terms of the severity of these symptoms, so it seemed appropriate to combine them under the one name and put them on a spectrum. 

Does that mean now it doesn’t exist?

No, just because they have made this change does not mean that you or your child no longer have a diagnosis. It also does not mean that all your difficulties were imagined or in your head. It simply means that these difficulties come under another name. Instead of Asperger’s Syndrome or PDD, they are all considered ASD and this encapsulates difficulties with social integration, communication and repetitive or unusual behaviours (head over to our other page on ASD [What is Autism Spectrum Disorder] for more information on ASD).  

What does this mean for me or my child with a diagnosis of Asperger’s?



    1. Do we have to get rid of the name? No… Some people begin to define themselves by their diagnoses. So it’s understandable that being told you can no longer use this name can be difficult. So if you would prefer to hold on to this name you can. Your specialist can use both the name of Asperger’s Syndrome and ASD so that you can still gain the support offered for ASD while holding on to the diagnosis that you originally identified with. 
    2. Do we have to be re-diagnosed? No… For people with a well established, pre-existing diagnosis of PDD or Asperger’s Syndrome they can be given a diagnosis of ASD. It may be beneficial though to re-visit your specialist as depending on the severity rating of ASD, there may be a higher level of support required and offered. 
    3. What about the stigma? Some people may worry that people will see them or their child as less intelligent because of a diagnosis of ASD opposed to Asperger’s Syndrome. This is an incorrect belief though. Although ASD can involve developmental delays and this can impact academic ability, this is not a given. As ASD is a spectrum, children with the same diagnosis can differ greatly and may not experience all of the same symptoms. Like with any disorder, there is stigma attached and the best way to tackle this is by educating others about ASD (head on over to [addressing the stigma] for tips on how to do this). 
    4. So what does change? Other than the name, not much. You or your child should still be entitled to all of the support services you may be receiving already and for some people, having a diagnosis coming under ASD may actually open up more support services. 



For further information on Asperger’s syndrome and ASD please see the links below. 



Basics of Autism

What is Autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that mainly affects the person’s communication and social skills. It is characterized by rigid and repetitive behaviors and is neurological and behavioral, in nature.  It occurs in 1 of 45 children in the United States alone and also occurs four times more in boys than in girls.  

ASD begins early in childhood and can persist to adolescence and adulthood. There are some great outcomes that enable the person to live independently, but some may have severe disabilities requiring lifelong support.


What are the signs and symptoms?

The term “spectrum” in ASD means that different symptoms may appear between persons with the disorder. As for the severity of the symptoms, it varies greatly. Below are the more common symptoms of ASD.

The following signs may suggest your child is at risk for ASD:

  • Difficulty in eye contact
  • Prefers to be alone
  • Delayed language development
  • Repetitive behaviors ( example: flapping, pacing, rocking and spinning)
  • Lack of empathy or difficulty in relating to other people
  • Repeats phrases countless times
  • Difficulty in listening 
  • Difficulty in communicating and expressing themselves


The information shared above is not meant to diagnose your child, but if you notice  these red flags, it is best to seek assistance from a healthcare provider specializing in ASD for proper evaluation of your child’s condition.


How early can you diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Signs and symptoms usually appear between 2 to 3 years of age, but in some cases symptoms show as early as 18 months old. Remember that early evaluation and intervention can improve the outcome of your child.


What are the causes of Autism?

Exact cause of Autism is still unknown, but below are the potential reasons:

  • Genetics, experts believe that autism runs in the family or in the genes
  • Rubella or German Measles in pregnant women
  • Environmental factors such as pesticides and mercury


Treatment for Autism?

There is no known “cure” for Autism however; early diagnosis and intervention can greatly improve the child’s development or potential.  The goal of the treatment is not to cure ASD but to maximize your child’s functional independence and quality of life. Management of a child with autism involves multiple approaches such as:

  • Behavioral training
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Medicine for added behavioral conditions like depression, anxiety and hyperactivity, if needed

Remember, early screening of your child can make an enormous improvement in his development.


What are the socio – economic impacts of ASD?

You need to understand that a person with autism will require support and guidance from their parents, family or caregiver due to their limited abilities. Some may even require lifelong support depending on the severity of their disabilities. 

Because of the disabilities attached to ASD, there is stigma and discrimination for some. Because of that, they may feel isolated from the society or community.  The responsibility of taking care of a person with ASD is also highly demanding, emotionally and financially.  The doctor’s consultation, the therapies and all programs needed for the treatment of this condition can be very expensive. Good thing, there are now non-profit organizations, family grants and government financial support that can assist you.

It is normal to have fears for your child’s future. Remember that you are not alone, and that there are social and health services that you can reach out to with your child’s condition that somehow extend some support and assistance. 


How do you cope when your child is diagnosed with Autism?


It is true that all parents want nothing but the best for their child. They will do everything to make their child live a happy and healthy life and no parent will ever be prepared for the news that their child is diagnosed with Autism.  It is a very frightening situation for anyone. You may feel scared and unsure of what do best for your child. Sometimes, you ask yourself how you can help as a parent.

 A lot of unsolicited advice will be given and it will just confuse you.  People around you may say that ASD is “incurable” and is a lifelong burden, but know that there are now treatments that can significantly make improvements in your child, in terms of the developmental and behavioral aspect.  With proper care, management, love and support, your child can still learn, develop and grow – high functioning, and all.


Things you can do to help your child

Aside from the treatment plan, therapies and programs suggested by specialists, as a parent, what else can you contribute with your child’s well-being?

First, allow yourself to cry. 

Yes, be sad and emotional whenever you feel you need to. Give yourself time to grieve and absorb everything. Afterwards, remember to pick yourself up.  Know that you have a child that needs you and your support. If you feel that everything feels too much, open up with your partner or family, they too are there to help you in this long journey.   

Educate yourself

Learn everything you can about Autism. The more equipped you are about the disorder, the more that you can help your child improve in his condition. Ask everything that bothers you with your child’s condition to the right people, your health care provider, physicians and therapists.  Research about the treatment choices available. Remind yourself that some may work or some may not and you, as the parent, knows what is best for your child.

Find a good team of specialists

The treatment and management of Autism can’t be done by a single health care provider. You may need to get in touch with several doctors and therapists. 


Your presence is important

Prepare yourself for this life long journey.  You as the parent will be the strongest anchor that your child can hang on to. Be strong for your child. Participate and learn from the therapies that you will bring your child to. 


Ask for help

Allow yourself to take a break once in awhile. Go outside and take a walk. Let your mind and body breathe. As they say this is a lifelong journey that may exhaust and drain all that you are.. Always remind yourself that you do not have to do this alone.  You can talk to and open up to your family. Ask help whenever you feel you need to. Give yourself that.