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APA proposes changes to Autism Spectrum Disorders

Mother and son
Mother and son
© Meg380 |

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has drafted proposed changes that will take effect in 2013.  One of said changes will be to combine Asperger's Syndrome,  Autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified into one disorder:  Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The APA's rationale for this change is that distinctions between autism spectrum disorders and nonspectrum disorders has been done "reliably and with validity"; whereas, distinctions within the spectrum have been inconsistent.  The APA argues "autism is defined by a common set of behaviors, it is best represented as a single diagnostic category that is adapted to the individual’s clinical presentation by inclusion of clinical specifiers (e.g., severity, verbal abilities and others) and associated features (e.g., known genetic disorders, epilepsy, intellectual disability and others.)"

Despite the similarities spectrum disorders share, there are also vast differences.  People diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome need different services than people with nonverbal learning disability (NLD) or  severe Autism. This proposed change raises many questions.  

  • How will the APA's proposed change affect those with various spectrum disorders?   
  • Will the proposed ASD diagnosis deny services to those on the mild end of the spectrum?
  • Will this change lessen proper diagnoses of ASD if symptoms range on the mild end of the spectrum?
  • What about other spectrum disorders not mentioned in the proposed change such as NLD?  Where will these disorders be classified?  Will they even have a classification?

The APA's proposed changes are available for public review at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) website under Disorders Usually First Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood, or AdolescenceAustistic Disorder. Public comment will influence the outcome of the revisions.  Publication of the updated manual is planned for May 2013.

Be sure to read the proposed changes and add your comments.  Share your experiences.  Back up your arguments with facts.  This is one change where our comments will make a difference.

For more information:  To find an Asperger's Syndrome support group near you, check out the Asperger's Association of New England (AANE).  For Autism support groups, check out the Arc of Massachusetts.  

If you think you or someone in your family has Asperger's Syndrome or another neurological disorder, schedule an appointment with a neuropsychologist.  In Western Massachusetts, there are a few options:  Dr. Sherri Katz of Learning Solutions in Northampton,Northampton Neuropsychological Associates (NNA), and  Neuropsychology Associates of Western Massachusetts in Springfield.

Related articles:  Proposed autism diagnosis changes anger "Aspies"


  • theresa hickson 5 years ago

    nicely done. not sure when you are quoting directly and when you are paraphrasing/ adding your own comments. Lots of good links!

  • Sera Rivers 5 years ago


    Thanks for reading. To clarify your confusion, I use quotations when I quote directly.

  • Shari 5 years ago

    Great link, Sera. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Sera Rivers 5 years ago

    Thank you for reading Shari. Please pass along to help influence the APA.

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