Embracing Asperger’s Syndrome: Honoring a Historical Legacy and Moving Forward

While the historical association of Hans Asperger with the Nazi regime has cast a shadow over his name, it is worth considering the case for retaining the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” and allowing the past to become a part of history. By recognizing the valuable contributions made by Asperger’s and acknowledging the unique experiences of individuals previously diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, we can strike a balance between honoring the legacy and promoting inclusivity.


Maintaining Historical Continuity

The term “Asperger’s Syndrome” has gained recognition and acceptance among professionals and individuals on the autism spectrum over the years. Changing the name abruptly could disrupt the continuity of research, clinical practice, and public understanding. Retaining the term allows for a smoother transition and minimizes confusion, ensuring that the accumulated knowledge and support systems associated with Asperger’s Syndrome remain accessible.

Respect for Individual Identities

For many individuals, the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome has provided a sense of identity and community. It has allowed them to understand their unique cognitive profile and navigate the world with self-acceptance. Changing the name could risk invalidating these experiences and potentially eroding the support networks built around the term. By preserving “Asperger’s Syndrome,” we acknowledge and respect the identities of those who have found solace and understanding through the diagnosis.

Separating the Individual from the Actions

It is crucial to differentiate between the contributions of Hans Asperger to the understanding of autism and his association with the Nazi regime. While the collaboration with the Nazis is a deeply troubling aspect of his legacy, it should not overshadow the valuable insights gained from his research. By retaining the name “Asperger’s Syndrome,” we acknowledge that individuals are not defined solely by the actions of their namesakes but by their own experiences and strengths.

Promoting Dialogue and Education

Instead of discarding the name “Asperger’s Syndrome,” we should use it as an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue about the historical context, the ethical complexities of the time, and the importance of learning from past mistakes. By keeping the name, we encourage conversations about the darker aspects of history while working towards a more inclusive and empathetic society. This approach fosters education and awareness, helping to prevent the repetition of past injustices.


While the association of Hans Asperger with the Nazi regime is a troubling chapter in history, it is worth considering the merits of retaining the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” and allowing it to become a symbol of resilience, progress, and inclusivity. By maintaining the name, we honour the contributions made by Asperger, respect the identities of individuals with the diagnosis, and encourage dialogue and education. By embracing the past while moving forward, we can create a more compassionate and understanding world for all individuals on the autism spectrum.