The Big Issue with DSM 5

On February 18th 2012 Asperger Syndrome Support Network Victoria (ASSN) hosted a party to celebrate 21 years of providing support and information services to the Victorian Asperger community.  International Aspergers Day was chosen to honour Dr Hans Asperger's birthday, the Austrian paediatrician who first described the syndrome in 1944.  

ASSN Vic patron, clinical psychologist and ASD specialist Dr Richard Eisenmajer gave a brief talk on the history of Asperger Syndrome, and likely changes the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will bring.  Due for release in May 2013 DSM 5 is expected to subsume Asperger's Disorder within the Autism Spectrum, meaning it will no longer exist as a diagnosis in its own right.  Instead a person who would currently be diagnosed as having Asperger Syndrome will receive a diagnosis of 'Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger type' with a rating of mild, moderate or severe.  

An recent article at USA Today News discusses various viewpoints on what this change will bring - here

The American Psychiatric Society has responded to recent criticism and explained their aims regarding Aspergers and autism via their latest news release:

The Work Group has proposed that autism, Asperger‘s disorder, pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified) and childhood disintegrative disorder be consolidated within the overarching category of ASD. The change signals how symptoms of these disorders represent a continuum from mild to severe, rather than being distinct disorders. The new category is expected to help clinicians more accurately diagnose people with relevant symptoms and behaviors by recognizing the differences from person to person, instead of providing general labels that tend not to be consistently applied across different clinics and centers.

Developing more useful diagnostic criteria for clinicians and individuals with ASD has been the core objective of the Work Group‘s efforts. For example, the proposed measures indicate increased sensitivity in regard to age of onset. DSM-IV requires functioning delays to be present prior to age 3; DSM-5 criteria would extend this until ―social demands exceed limited capacities,‖ as long as symptoms were present in early childhood. Despite what some critics have suggested, the issue of containing autism rates was not considered by the Work Group, nor was it a factor in revising the criteria.

 To read the full article, click here