Aspergers Victoria was founded in 1991 by a group of peer families with the driving purpose of inspiring, empowering and supporting Aspergers autistic individuals to be themselves and realise their ambitions through a feeling of belonging and being understood across their lives, while also empowering their allies and supporters.
Our purpose has evolved to provide individuals, families, businesses and professionals with opportunities to connect, feel part of communities, grow self determination, and share knowhow, with a focus on autistic inclusion, strengths and respect in both the social space as well as in their employment.
In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the standard used by mental health professionals in the United States, was updated to the DSM-5, and “Aspergers syndrome” was reclassified and removed as a separate diagnosis to instead become part of the autism spectrum. The reason behind this change was Aspergers’ similarity to autism which is regarded as a spectrum condition. Aspergers continues in use as a term but not a diagnosis under the World Health Organisation’s ICD-11 which is used elsewhere in Europe and Asia. For some time diagnosticians have continued to use the term to clarify the resources an individual could access.
Over the last 10 years we’ve seen a further change with the emergence of the term ‘neurodiversity’, which refers to the diversity of all people, but it is often used in the context of autism spectrum conditions as well as other neurological or developmental conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or learning disabilities. The neurodiversity movement emerged following work by Judy Singer during the 1990s, aiming to increase acceptance and inclusion of all people while embracing neurological differences and has become an umbrella term to cover people with autism spectrum conditions, dyspraxia, dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia, Tourette syndrome and is expanding to include other differences.At AV we are driven by inclusivity and focusing on neuro-affirming practices, and following evolution in community feedback we believe that our current name ‘Aspergers Victoria’, no longer fully encompasses our community.Changing our name is not something that we are doing lightly; it has been a discussion topic at Board level for several years since the DSM change. Our primary purpose for making this important change includes the desire to:
- Better reflect the views of the community we support
- Reduce misunderstandings and unfavourable reactions in the workplace when using the term aspie / Aspergers
- Ensure our name and brand no longer refers to a diagnosis that does not exist under the DSM-5 which clinicians in Australia tend to favour.
- Move away from a name that is becoming regarded as not as inclusive for our autistic individuals, and which, for some, is considered a functioning descriptor. not having regard for the spectrum of autistic strengths or abilities Further information: Autism Awareness Australia
- Ensure our name is no longer associated with Hans Asperger, after whom “Aspergers Syndrome” was named by Uta Frith. There has been recent research about the activities of Hans Asperger, an Austrian paediatrician, who has more recently been regarded as associated with Nazi activities during that era in his country, giving the use of this name a negative connotation for some people. Further reading: Scientific American. Further reading: The Guardian
We believe that our name needs to acknowledge more broadly that our membership is not only diagnosed autistic and are likely living with co-occurring conditions. Further reading: Very Well Mind
As AV is dedicated to community codesign and involvement in our way forward, as well as representing our members’ needs, we want to hear your thoughts. Share your suggestions for our new name with us! Some of the name options we’ve been discussing in our team include:
This is not an exhaustive list. We know that our community is extraordinarily diverse and creative and we’d love to hear your suggestions for our new name. There have been suggestions that no diagnostic type of term should be in our name whereas others have suggested it should be specific as it is key to clarify which part of our community we support. It’s interesting to note that most other autism organisations don’t include a diagnostic term (‘autism’ or ‘autistic’) in their names, and that there may also be future changes to the DSM.
We are on our continuing journey of change with our key mission to best empower and support our community and this will have several stages of community consultation involved.
If you would like to share your feedback on this topic including name suggestions, we invite you to send an email to the dedicated email address we have set up for this project:
We welcome your support, thoughts and feedback as we go through this critical process for our future sustainability.