Changes to Autism in the DSM-5: How will they impact you?

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders was recently released at the annual American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) meeting.

Prior to and since its release the DSM-5 has been causing controversy and dividing medical and clinical professionals. A particularly controversial change is to the future diagnosis of Autism and Asperger Syndrome.


A change for “Aspies”

There is a supportive community for children and adults with Asperger Syndrome, frequently referred to as Aspies. Asperger Syndrome is well known as a high functioning form of Autism and there has been a push for increased awareness of the disorder in recent years.

The BBC news round special of My Autism and me aimed to increase awareness and a young girl Rosie who has Asperger Syndrome narrated it.  

However, the revised version of the DSM-5 means that this type of high functioning autism will no longer get its own diagnostic label. It will now be diagnosed under the umbrella term Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as will the other existing disorders; Autistic Disorder (Autism) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (PDD – NOS).

In addition to this, the well-known Triad of impairments will change. Previously, impairments needed to be evident in each of these domains in order for a diagnosis of Autism to be made.

However, the Triad of impairments will now become a dyad of impairment.   The Dyad of impairment looks to highlight the specific difficulties people with Autism have with social communication skills. The sensory needs of people with Autism will now be included in the restricted and repetitive behaviour sections.


How do these changes impact people on the Autistic Spectrum?

Those who have an existing diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, Autism or PPD-NOS will not lose their diagnosis. The changes to the DSM-5 will only impact on how individuals will be diagnosed with ASD in the future.

Furthermore, whilst the DSM-5 is highly influential it is not solely what practitioners rely on to diagnose Autism particularly in the UK! The International Classification of Disorders is commonly used in the UK and the revised version is not due to be released until 2015.


Further information

The following links will allow you to find out more information about the changes to the DSM-5 and give you reactions from medical professionals:


You can follow discussions of the DSM-5 on twitter with the trend #DSM5. Follow us on Twitter @ITStherapy


If you or your child has ASD and you think that you or may benefit from speech and language therapy or associated therapies, Integrated Treatment Services could be of help. Contact us by clicking here.


Lisa Franklin

June 2013


Written on behalf of Integrated Treatment Services. Integrated Treatment Services is a private Speech and Language Therapy service based in Leicestershire. We offer therapy services across the East Midlands, Southern England, Northern England and Northern Ireland. It specialises in providing highly-skilled Speech and Language Therapists, but also associates with other therapeutic professionals, including Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Psychologists and Arts Psychotherapists



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