UTHealth opens Asperger’s syndrome clinic
HOUSTON - (May 11, 2010) – Recognizing an unmet need in the Houston area, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) has opened a new clinic called Changing Lives through Autism Spectrum Services (CLASS) for intellectually able people age 16 and older with Asperger’s syndrome or another autism spectrum disorder.
Asperger’s is a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum that causes impairment in social and communication skills. It is sometimes thought of as being a high functioning form of autism because “Aspies,” as they call themselves, are people of average or higher intellectual level.
“Persons with Asperger’s are high on systemizing and low on empathizing,” says Katherine Loveland, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, part of UTHealth. “Systemizing is the kind of thinking we do when we organize things, solve concrete problems and think in terms of how things work. Empathizing is where we are attuned to and concerned with the feelings of other people.”
It wasn’t until 1992 that Asperger’s was recognized as a distinct disorder by the World Health Organization and not until 1994 that it was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic reference book.
“We’re only now getting good at detecting Asperger’s in young people and there is a cohort of adults from when we were not so good at detecting it,” says Loveland, who directs the CLASS Clinic at the UTHealth Behavioral and Biomedical Sciences Building.
“Either it’s never been diagnosed or misdiagnosed,” Loveland said. “One of the reasons it might be missed is because they are intellectually able. They are bright and verbal and good at school work, but they have continuing social problems, such as forming relationships with peers, being accepted, and dealing with emotions.”
Specialists such as those at the CLASS Clinic can determine whether the problems an individual is experiencing are related to Asperger’s syndrome. Co-existing conditions such as depression and anxiety can be treated with medication or psychotherapy.
“I really feel there is an unmet need in the community. There are people out there who are struggling and need a place to go. We want people to access the support they need,” Loveland says. “They will be able to meet people on a similar journey and know they are not alone.”
For more information on CLASS, call Loveland at 713-486-2587 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deborah Mann Lake
Media Hotline: 713-500-3030