Practitioner views of Asperger's disorder: Clinical diagnosis and special education eligibility
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of school psychology practitioners regarding Asperger's Disorder, focusing on practitioner perceptions of self-competence, conceptualization of the clinical characteristics of the disorder, and how Asperger's Disorder is conceptualized for the purpose of determining special education eligibility under the current federal guidelines as outlined in IDEA 2004. Participants were asked to review a case study based on one of Asperger's original case histories, and complete a questionnaire that required them to rate the relevance of special education handicapping eligibilities to the case history, rate the relevance of various clinical criteria for the diagnosis of Asperger's Disorder from the diagnostic systems proposed by both the DSM-IV-TR (APA, 2000) and Gillberg and Gillberg (1989), and provide demographic information that included self-report ratings of perceived competence with regard to the determination of special education eligibility and clinical diagnosis for Autism and Asperger's Disorder. The results of the study suggest that respondents with higher levels of graduate training (e.g. doctoral training) tend to report higher levels of competence regarding clinical diagnosis of Asperger's Disorder. Those who feel they are more competent in clinical diagnostics, report a greater importance for using clinical criteria for Asperger's Disorder in the determination of special education eligibility, and those who have greater exposure to Asperger's Disorder through higher numbers of case referrals, tend to have a greater grasp of DSM-IV-TR criteria and proclivity for their use. Respondents appear to conceptualize the clinical presentation of Asperger's Disorder according to the criteria as presented in the DSM-IV-TR, as opposed to those proposed by Gillberg and Gillberg (1989), and while the majority of respondents can successfully identify characteristics of a disorder on the Autism spectrum, applying this to special education eligibility varies and may include multiple eligibility classification categories depending on a student's clinical presentation.