Local Kingston charity will no longer use the term ‘Asperger syndrome’

Local company Balance has renamed its ‘Asperger Syndrome team’, changing the name to ‘Autistic Spectrum team’ to better reflect its focus and to show it embraces a much wider range of diagnoses.

Balance is  a local community interest company (CIC) which provides support for Kingston’s autistic community.

Balance said in an email released to its clients:  “ Due to the change in the diagnostic criteria and the negative links to Hans Asperger, it no longer seems appropriate to use the name Asperger Syndrome team. This, in no way, means that our clients who have a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome cannot use the service or their diagnosis will no longer exist.“

Hans Asperger was an Austrian paediatrician best known for his study of mental disorders in children. Due to his work on autism spectrum disorders, Asperger syndrome (AS) was named after him.

Balance’s decision aims to help speed up the referral process as more people are being diagnosed with conditions such as autism spectrum condition (ASC), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), high-functioning autism or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS). All of these are autism spectrum conditions and the service believes the terminology should better reflect that they cover the entire spectrum rather than just Asperger syndrome.

It is also because the term Asperger syndrome is falling out of use in a clinical setting. The term was dropped in 2013 from the influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders used in the USA and replaced with the term “autism spectrum disorder”, a term which has already been in use throughout the UK for many years.

A Balance employee said: “We welcome the change as it better reflects what we do, but we want to stress that we are still providing the wide range of services we had before and nobody will be losing their support.”

However, not all are happy with the change. James, a Balance client from New Malden, said: ” I am worried that the needs of AS will be lost in among all the different needs of people with other autism spectrum disorders. Balance is run on a shoestring and it is already overstretched. I think that we might ultimately lose the service all together if it has to branch out from its current specialisation.”

A study published in the  Molecular Autism journal in April by Herwig Czech, a prominent medical historian, claimed that Hans Asperger aided in the Third Reich’s euthanasia programme.

In his eight-year study, Czech claimed that documents left untouched in state archives show that the Hans Asperger sent children to the notorious Am Speigelgrund clinic, which was set up to collect children who were not deemed “worthy of living”. 

Asperger syndrome was first described by Asperger in 1944. In 1981, the British psychiatrist Lorna Wing proposed the term ‘Asperger syndrome’.

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