Free children from shackles of Asperger’s title

Hans Asperger, the erstwhile prominent Viennese paediatrician, could never have envisaged the global phenomenological fervour which enveloped and exponentially developed his collated observations on the perceived ‘psychopathy’ exhibited by some children with apparent communication, social-skillset, peer-empathy and physical adroitness issues.

No doubt his diligent observations had valid merit in pursuit of additional understanding of developmental social-psychology, but the formal ‘syndromisation’ of same in the 1990’s has hardly covered itself in authentic glory or convincing legitimacy.

The burgeoning lists of celebrated historical figures across the spheres of politics, arts and sciences, who have now been posthumously awarded a diagnosis bearing Dr Asperger’s name (re-conjured as a syndrome) is astounding: Lincoln, Mozart, Beethoven, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Einstein and Edison etc.

The pining lament on the recent loss of DSM-5 kudos for the diagnositc rating of ‘Asperger’s’ is surely misdirected and misconstrued. The DSM classification has long since been regularly discredited — and for very good reason which has been made very public time over time. Children and young adults who present with a pervasive developmental disorder, should be engaged, assessed and supported for their specific individual needs, rather than being slotted into some needless diagnostic strait-jacket.

Familial/relational/interpersonal aspects of these situations are key and core to the fray. They are being routinely by-passed in favour of ‘arms-length’ templates of ‘objective’ appraisal and pseudo-psychological schemata. Loss of DSM-classification should be an occasion for celebration, rather than lament. Freed from such shackles of superfluous diagnosticism, children’s needs can then be addressed with the empathic nuance, transparent generosity of spirit and wholesome authenticity which their individual disposition deserves. Creativity is all.

Jim Cosgrove


Co Waterford

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