New DSM Brings Change, Assurances For Those With Autism

For the first time in more than a decade, a new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will be unveiled this weekend and with it comes major change to the way autism is diagnosed.

The American Psychiatric Association is releasing the fifth edition of the DSM at its annual meeting beginning Saturday in San Francisco. The new version marks the first major update since 1994 of the so-called psychiatric bible which is relied on by everyone from mental health professionals to researchers and insurers to determine what symptoms merit a diagnosis.

Among the most controversial changes to the manual is its updated definition of autism. The psychiatric association decided to eliminate the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and instead fold it as well as childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified into the broader category of “autism spectrum disorder,” with clinicians indicating a level of severity.

Changes were also made to the way autism will be diagnosed, which led to concern that some with the developmental disorder could lose the label entirely and, with it, needed services.

In an effort to quell such worries, the new DSM includes a note specifying that “individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder,” according to an advance copy of the autism entry provided to Disability Scoop.

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