Over the last few weeks, a tempest in a teapot has been brewing within the autism community with respect to the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders referred to as the DSM-V due for release in May 2013. The task force has decided to group autism, Asperger Syndrome and PDD-NOS into one category under the heading of “Autism Spectrum Disorder” and to tighten the criteria for diagnosis.
The Internet is littered with fear mongering comments claiming that the changes being made are only being done “to get rid of challengers to [anti-vaccine and biomed] authorities.” Others are banging the gong and posting desperately that the changes will “strip our kids of their human rights to treatment and acceptance of who they truly are.”
What many diagnosed and self-diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome would like the general public to believe is that Asperger Syndrome will no longer exist and that thousands of children, youth and adults will be without services and supports once the DSM-V is published. More than a few online petitions are making these sorts of claims.
One online petition states that “If there were not [sic] therapies — occupational, speech, physical — for these children, they would not be high-functioning, which is what will happen to them when the insurance companies take away the right for them to continue because their diangnosis [sic] will “change” under the DSMV [sic].” It ends with: “Please sign and share and don’t let them take away their rights to have services, which is ultimately what will happen if this is changed.”
Comments such as “I know what it is like to live with Asperger’s and for them to say that it does not warrant a diagnosis is an outrage!” come from failing to be properly informed on what the changes will mean to someone who currently has a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS or Classic Autism.
Comments such as “[i]t is very important for these kids to get the help they need and eliminating a diagnosis from a child does not remove the disorder” underscores the failure of parents to understand that no one has stated that the changes to the DSM-V are intended to remove the disorder from the individual diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.
No one is taking away anyone’s right to have services. This is not what will ultimately happen with the new changes to the DSM-V. With the tightening of criteria which must be met in order to be given a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, 76% diagnosed with classic autism, 24% diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and 16% diagnosed with PDD-NOS will be reclassified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder. This in no way means that those who are not reclassified are doomed to live without services or supports. What it means is that those who do not meet the Autism Spectrum Disorder criteria may meet other diagnostic criteria found in the DSM-V, leading to more accurate diagnoses and more appropriate services and supports for those who do not meet the Autism Spectrum Disorder criteria.
Asperger Syndrome and PDD-NOS aren’t the only categories in the DSM-V that have seen changes in their criteria. Criteria changes have been made for such diagnoses as Separation Anxiety Disorder and Tourette’s Disorder. Criteria changes have been made for such diagnoses as Dissociative Amnesia, Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. They’ve been made for Bipolar Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder, and they’ve been made for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Acute Stress Disorder.
For those self-diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome who have publicly touted that the original diagnosis they received from a licensed and accredited medical professional years ago was incorrect, perhaps it’s time to revisit those diagnoses if you were diagnosed with Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder or any number of personality disorders as they, too, have undergone criteria changes.
And before anyone says that no other disorders are being reclassified in the DSM-V, please note that Hypochondriasis is being reclassified as Illness Anxiety Disorder so it’s not just Asperger Syndrome and PDD-NOS that are being reclassified.
Of particular interest is the fact that there are additions to the DSM-V and these additions include such disorders as Late Language Emergence, Specific Language Impairment, Social Communication Disorder and Voice Disorder.
The fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of catastrophizing going on in the autism community when it comes to the DSM-V. For those who are interested in knowing what changes, additions and deletions can be expected in the DSM-V as it pertains to infants, children and adolescents, a list of changes, additions and deletions can be found on the American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 Development website.
It’s time for the autism community to calm down and realize that changes are necessary in order to more accurately diagnose individuals who have a disease, disorder or difference. In tightening up the criteria, services and supports can be more closely geared to address the needs of those with a diagnosis, regardless of what that diagnosis might be.
Founder and Creator
MIDNIGHT IN CHICAGO
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American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 Development Website