DSM 5: What’s the Big Deal?

dsm5 2013It’s May 2013 and my copy of the DSM 5 is arriving this week. I remember the feeling of apprehension begin to circulate in conversations regarding the proposed revision to Autistic Disorder.  Questions swirled: “How would the change impact children currently diagnosed?” “Would the change of the eligibility criteria result in less children being diagnosed and receiving treatment?”  Parents and professionals questioned the modification of the diagnosis and I too felt concerned.  60% of the Elizabeth Lee Black School students and the majority of children enrolled in behavioral health services have a diagnosis of autism.

So, what’s the big deal?  Life has taught me that a feeling of uneasiness often accompanies change.  However, it is important to me to help parents and professionals (and myself) grasp clarity of the revision.  After reviewing literature and keeping abreast of updates from reliable sources such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and Autism Speaks, here’s my understanding…

Children and adults with a current diagnosis of autism will maintain the diagnosis. This is important to keep in mind because the diagnosis determines eligibility for treatment.  If your child is currently diagnosed and receiving services, then this should continue.

The diagnosis is now titled Autism Spectrum Disorder.  In the past, your child may have been diagnosed with Aspergers, PDD NOS or Autistic Disorder.  The three subgroups (Aspergers, PDD NOS and Autistic Disorder) now fall under one term: Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What does a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder look like in the DSM 5 There are two categories:

-Social Communication Impairment

-Repetitive Behavior/Restrictive Range of Activities

An individual must exhibit: Three deficits in social communication impairment and two symptoms of repetitive behavior/restrictive range of activities

Repetitive behavior/restrictive range of activities lists a new symptom: Hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment

A new diagnostic category has been added to the DSM 5: Social Communication Disorder. This is for persons with social communications deficits without the repetitive behavior.

PS:  Autism Speaks has developed a survey for parents whose children will be diagnosed using the new DSM 5. I encourage parents and professionals to share how the new criteria is working in our local communities by visiting http://www.autismspeaks.org/dsm5.   

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