Study Shows New DSM Will Not Exclude Most Children From Autism Diagnosis

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), is often considered “the bible” of mental disorders and is used by doctors and insurance companies to help diagnose disorders such as autism, pervasive development disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger’s syndrome (AS) Changes to this manual, due out in 2013, will create an umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, discontinuing separate categories for Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive development disorder (not otherwise specified.) Many parents and advocates are concerned that such a change will cause children to lose their diagnosis and no longer be eligible for services.

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    Proposed Changes to Diagnostic Criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome
    Eliminating Asperger’s Syndrome from the New DSM: What Happens to Aspies?

    The APA believes the changes in diagnostic criteria will provide “more useful diagnostic criteria for clinicians and individuals with ASD.” [1] For example, instead of using “prior to age 3” the new criteria would indicate “early childhood.” Other changes include adding in symptoms such as sensory interests and aversions, which are not presently included. Advocates of the new criteria believe that PDD-NOS and AS are more accurately described as severity levels of autism spectrum disorders rather than separate diagnoses.

    A study completed at Weill Cornell Medical College and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in October, 2012, agrees. Dr. Catherine Lord, lead researcher, stated, “I know that parents worry, but I don’t believe there is any substantial reason to fear that children who need to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, and provided with vital services, will not be included in the new criteria in this updated manual.” [2]

    The study looked at 4,453 children currently diagnosed with autism, PDD-NOS or Asperger’s syndrome and found that 91 percent would still meet the criteria for ASD under the new definition. Many of the other children, researchers believe, would be diagnosed with doctor evaluation and input. Researchers found that the new definition would result in fewer misclassifications.

    Lord further stated, “DSM-5 deliberately added and organized things to try to bring in and better address the needs of people with ASD of all developmental levels and ages - including girls, who were not represented as well as they should be in DSM-IV. The goal of DSM-5 is to better describe who has ASD in a way that matches up with what we know from research, which predicts who has the disorder and also reflects what clinicians are actually looking at.” [3]

    The new DSM is due out in 2013. If you have questions or concerns or are worried that your child will no longer meet the diagnostic criteria, you should talk with your doctor or a mental health provider.

    [1] “Commentary Takes Issue with Criticism of New Autism Definition,” 2012, March 27, News Release - American Psychiatric Association

  • [2] [3] “New Definition of Autism in Updated Psychiatric Clinical Manual Will Not Exclude Most Children with Autism, Expert Says,” 2012, Oct 2, Staff Writer

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Published On: January 17, 2013