If I Could Rewrite the DSM-IV Criteria for Autism (Part One)

The very idea that autism appears in any book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is deeply offensive to me.  When I venture in and try to make sense of the current split between the diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s and autism, all I can see is that it places autistic people into hierarchies that make no logical or practical sense.

Because this whole subject is really bothering me, I thought it might be fun to rewrite the diagnostic criteria, line by line, so that the text describes us as something more than walking collections of mysterious pathologies.  In my rewrite, I have maintained each line of the diagnostic criteria with a strikethrough, followed by my proposed changes.  Because the people who wrote the diagnostic criteria reused some of the same text, but didn’t bother to create a consistent numbering scheme, I couldn’t combine the criteria for Asperger’s and autism without adding more illogic to the situation.  In a perfect world, people would check their writing for logical consistency before they publish it.  Since they didn’t, my rewrite consists of two parts.

Part One

Diagnostic Criteria for 299.80 Asperger’s Disorder
How to Tell Whether Someone is an Asperger’s Awe-tistic

(I) Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
(I) An unusual mode of social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(A) Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction
(A)  An acute sensory and empathic sensitivity that i) makes eye contact and social interaction intensely difficult and ii) results in the rejection of ambiguous nonverbal behaviors in favor of direct, detailed, and honest speech.

(B) Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
(B) Beginning in early childhood, a gift for developing relationships with people of widely different ages and developmental trajectories.

(C) A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people, (e.g.. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
(C) The understanding, gained uncannily early in life, that i) most people will not appreciate the awe-tist’s interests or achievements, and ii) showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest will be met with judgment and/or hostility that manifest in socially acceptable forms of repression (such as social exclusion) or criminal acts (such as physical assault).

(D) Lack of social or emotional reciprocity
(D) An acute sensitivity to the feelings of others that causes the awe-tist to refrain from using banal pleasantries or empty words that may hurt or offend.

(E) An altogether eccentric form of social and emotional reciprocity that insists upon fairness, directness, sensitivity, tolerance, substance, acceptance of difference, and mutually interesting subject matter.

(II) Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
(II) Specialized, disciplined, and brilliantly useful patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(A) Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
(A) A passion for one or more specialized subjects extraordinary in intensity and focus.

(B) Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
(B) An innate capacity for self-care that manifests itself in the creation of comforting routines and a fascination with patterns of all kinds.

(C) Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g. hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
(C) An innate capacity for sensory self-regulation by means of various stims, which can encompass such soothing activities as joint compression, touching the comforting texture of soft fabrics, watching spinning objects, and so forth.

(D) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
(D) An exceptional ability to work with objects in an unconventional fashion.

(III) The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
(III) Because the world is not yet attuned to the acute sensitivities and extraordinary gifts of awe-tistic people, being awe-tistic can result in social ostracism, occupational dead-ends, and other disappointing outcomes.  For the lives of awe-tistic people to improve, early educational and social intervention in the lives of neuro-typical people is recommended.

(IV) There is no clinically significant general delay in language (E.G. single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)
(IV) Whether you started talking at two years old or four years old, does it really matter?

(V) There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
(V) We are certain that in a different time and culture, awe-tistic people would have places of honor as shamans, dreamers, healers, artists, builders, and trusted confidantes.

(VI) Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.
(VI) The person’s awe-tistic consciousness is not better accounted for by some other type of hierarchical hair-splitting that results in diagnosing life itself as a kind of disease.

Continue to Part Two …

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg blogs at Journeys with AutismIf I Could Rewrite the DSM-IV Criteria for Autism appears here under the terms of this Creative Commons License.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg’s memoir is The Uncharted Path: My Journey with Late-Diagnosed Autism.

[image: Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg]

related:  Time for This Elephant to Leave This Circus

on 11/26/10 in featured, Society | 1 Comment | Read More

Comments (1)


  1. Stephanie says:

    Based on the diagnostic criteria, I would not be given a diagnosis of Asperger’s, due to the emphasis on “impairment.”

    Based on your criteria, I could be identified as an Asperger’s Awe-tistic.

Leave a Reply