DSM-5 and Autism: What is the impact of the changed criteria?

autism-program-illinois-dsm5Beginning months before the DSM-5 was released, the autism community was concerned about what impact the changing diagnostic criteria would have on diagnosis and services. With the removal of the diagnoses of Asperger’s disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), many feared that individuals might no longer be qualified to receive supportive services, even with the addition of the new diagnosis Social Communication Disorder (SCD).

The DSM-5 criteria for ASD states in a note “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.” This indicates that there is no reason to reevaluate individuals, they should automatically receive the DSM-5 diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Hopefully this statement allays concerns about potential loss of services for individuals diagnosed under DSM-IV.

But what about those who are now going to be evaluated? Will the new criteria result in a decrease in the prevalence of autism? A study covered in the media last week seemed to indicate it was possible, saying that some individuals who might have received a diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder or PDD-NOS before would not be diagnosed with ASD now. This appears to be a reasonable conclusion, but it is incomplete. That study did not look at the use of the new SCD diagnosis. A study funded in part by Autism Speaks which appears online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that those who would not meet the new criteria for ASD would in most cases meet criteria for SCD.

Autism Speaks talks about this new study at http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/dsm-5-autism-autism-speaks-study-clarifies-impact-new-criteria and you can read the abstract or purchase the full text of the journal article at http://www.jaacap.com/article/S0890-8567%2814%2900044-6/abstract .

Russell J. Bonanno, M.Ed., TAP Program Manager

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