Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Asperger Syndrome

Posted by nliakos on December 6, 2007

edited by Ami Klin, Fred R. Volkmar, and Sara S. Sparrow; Guilford, 2000

This is a collection of heavily documented academic essays on Asperger Syndrome. They are very detailed and not easy to read. As I read them, I will add a brief summary of each chapter.

Part I, Behavioral Aspects

1. Volkmar and Klin, “Diagnostic Issues in Asperger Syndrome”

Hans Asperger described four boys with social and motor deficits in 1944. He called what these boys had autistic psychopathy. A year earlier, Leo Kanner had described a syndrome he called early infantile autism. Asperger’s work was not translated into English until 1981 (by Lorna Wing, who also modified Asperger’s original concept). Whether or not AS and autism constitute different forms of the same thing is still unclear. AS also shares characteristics with other conditions: schizoid personality in childhood, nonverbal learning disability, developmental learning disability of the right hemisphere, and semantic-pragmatic disorder. It is extremely difficult to compare the different conditions because diagnostic methods vary and different studies use different diagnostic criteria.

2. Ozonoff and Griffith, “Neuropsychological Function and the External Validity of Asperger Syndrome”

External validity means that a syndrome is truly unique. This article discusses the fact that AS does not yet really have external validity; it is still linked in the minds of many (professionals as well as the general public) with high-functioning autism (HFA). The authors examined studies focusing on motor skills, visual-spatial abilities, executive functions, and theory of mind to see if any of these neuropsychological domains could clearly distinguish between AS and HFA. Again, it was difficult to compare studies because the subjects in the studies were not always clearly one thing or the other. The problem is that psychologists are trying to see how Aspies are different from autistic people, but the same diagnostic criteria are not used for all the studies; so it is impossible to determine if the groups really differ or not. The authors conclude that the only area which offers any support to the validity of AS as separate from HFA is Theory of Mind (Aspies seem to have it, autistic people seem to lack it), but they admit the difficulty of coming to any real conclusions because very few comparable studies have been carried out, and there has been a lot of sloppy research.

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