A parent asked me yesterday about the change in the diagnostic criteria for autism in the DSM-V. Here are my thoughts…
The changes that are being made are, in my humble opinion, very positive. Currently, if a child is diagnosed with autism, they either have it or they don’t. As every parent of a child with autism knows and as the name implies, this is a spectrum disorder. At this point there is no way of distinguishing a child who is functionally verbal, socially curious, and performing at grade-level cognitively from a child who is functionally non-verbal, is overstimulated by ANY social interaction and cognitively way below grade level. They are both diagnosed as having autism disorder. The same goes for PDD-NOS, Asperger’s syndrome, and CDD.
The new changes would place these four disorders under the umbrella term, autism spectrum disorder and would “specify a range of severity as well as describe the individual’s overall developmental status–in social communication and other relevant cognitive and motor behaviors.” The full article can be found here: http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/12-03%20Autism%20Spectrum%20Disorders%20-%20DSM5.pdf
The proposed changes would help with more accurate diagnosis and more refined therapy techniques. Placing children in such a general category as autism disorder can be dangerous. If we have more specific assessments and criteria, it will likely lead to more accurate results in diagnosis and therapy.