Before I’m lynched by an angry crowd of Asperger’s/autism advocates, let me clarify: My intent with last Friday’s “Blotch” post wasn’t to offend anyone living with the spectrum of conditions associated with autism. I have no experience with those challenges, which also means I’m unfamiliar with the daily frustrations they no doubt generate. I take no pleasure in the thought that I’ve added to those frustrations.
However, I believe many of the letter writers misunderstood and/or mischaracterized the post, which was intended to poke fun at people who like to casually diagnose themselves with pop psych versions of a serious condition. I was pointing out that the phrase “Asperger’s Syndrome” has filtered into the public discourse as a vague, catch-all explanation for shyness, social awkwardness, and communication difficulties. Officially returning the syndrome to the autism spectrum, as the DSM-5 is about to do, means that the “Asperger’s” label should no longer be tossed around lightly — it is once again a “very real and unromantic” condition, as I noted.
(Others have made the claim that Asperger’s has been wildly overused and even over-diagnosed –– two New York Times op-eds published last year made this point far more credibly than I ever could. And, unsurprisingly, those pieces angered a lot of Asperger’s/autism advocates).
As far as mentioning Adam Lanza in my post: It was widely reported that the Newtown shooter had Asperger’s. I noted that this may or may not have been true, and suggested that his association with the condition would make it no longer appealing to any nitwit who would casually claim the label. To say that I lumped Lanza in with all Asperger’s patients is, in my opinion, absurd.
The passion and frustration with which Asperger’s/autism folks responded is totally understandable. But I stand by the original point — the phrase “Asperger’s Syndrome” has been popularly overused and misused to the point of folly.