By special permission of the American Psychiatric Association, you can read the full-text of the new diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder and the related diagnosis of social communication disorder.
The American Psychiatric Association publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to guide healthcare professionals diagnosing mental health conditions. The manual’s fifth edition – DSM-5 – took effect in May 2013.
The American Psychiatric Association periodically updates the DSM to reflect new understanding of mental health conditions and the best ways to identify them.
The goals for updating the criteria for diagnosing autism included:
Six major changes include:
1. Four previously separate categories of autism consolidated into one umbrella diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder.”
2. Consolidation of three previous categories of autism symptoms into two categories of symptoms.
3. The addition of sensory issues as a symptom under the restricted/repetitive behavior category. This includes hyper- or hypo-reactivity to stimuli (lights, sounds, tastes, touch, etc.) or unusual interests in stimuli (staring at lights, spinning objects, etc.)
4. A severity assessment scale (levels 1-3) based on level of support needed for daily function.
5. Additional assessment for:
6. Creation of a new diagnosis of social communication disorder for disabilities in social communication without repetitive, restricted behaviors.
The DSM-5 states, “Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.”
Many people strongly identify with their diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. Healthcare providers can still indicate a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome (or another previously used autism category) in a patient’s medical record, alongside the current DSM-5 coding for “autism spectrum disorder.” Colleges and school districts may vary in their policies for educational records.
This new diagnosis applies to people who have persistent problems with the social use of language, but don’t have restricted interests or repetitive behaviors.
Some people who would have previously received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS may now receive a diagnosis of social communication disorder. However, this should apply only to newly diagnosed people. It should not be applied retroactively to someone already diagnosed with PDD-NOS under the DSM-IV criteria.
No. Social communication disorder is considered a communication disorder. People who have the symptoms of social communication disorder in addition to restricted, repetitive behaviors may receive a diagnosis of autism instead.
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