When I began helping my younger brother about 12 years ago, Asperger's Syndrome (AS) was a new condition. I found that there were very few resources available for children and almost none for adults with the condition. Eventually, I founded the Asperger Society because, while a great deal of attention was being paid to Autism, the greater part of that attention was focused on lower functioning autism. Individuals with Asperger's, I believe, have a very different set of needs from those with Autism. The largest issues are those of function and dependency: an individual with AS can build their social skills and eventually become self-sufficient. In fact, individuals with AS have a great deal to contribute to the world.
As I began working in education I realized that the Asperger's diagnosis had a few drawbacks. Under the IDEA 2004 special education law, students with "autism" are entitled to services that students with Asperger's (note the absence of the word Autism) do not have access to. As a result medical professionals began to use the diagnosis of "High Functioning Autism" (HFA) in order to give some children access to these services.
As Asperger's is about to find itself merged into "Autism Spectrum Disorders" (ASD) I find I have mixed feelings. On the one hand it will help to end the political strife that has surrounded the Asperger's diagnosis, on the other it once again lumps all individuals on the spectrum into one category. I do believe, however, that a greater understanding of what Autism really is has resulted from the increased attention drawn to it in recent years, and I do not think that any stigma will be attached to this the diagnosis. The old mental image of children rocking back and forth grunting has given way in large part to a deeper understanding of the condition.
Nevertheless, the world of mild-Autism, including AS, must remain separate as those with AS continue to have needs that are vastly different from those with Autism. Unfortunately, politics seem to be interfering with this reality.