Temple November Article

Proposed Removal of Asperger’s from

The DSM-V Diagnostic Manual

The American Psychiatric Association is proposing to eliminate the Asperger and PDD-NOS diagnosis and merge them into autism spectrum disorder.  This would occur when they publish the new diagnostic guidelines in the DSM-V. They are also proposing to create a new diagnosis called social communication disorder.  The description of the symptoms for social communication disorder are similar to Asperger’s.  Some of the features of social communication disorder are difficulty in social uses of verbal and non-verbal communication and social communication problems that have a detrimental effect on employment and social relationships. To be labeled autistic, the individual also has to have additional symptoms such as sensory problems, fixated interests or repetitive behavior.  It is my opinion that social communication disorder is part of the social impairment continuum of the autism spectrum.  I fear that many Aspies will be switched into this diagnosis when school districts get short on funding.

The changes in diagnostic criteria are probably going to cause the most problems for older, fully verbal children who have normal intelligence and are diagnosed in late childhood or adolescence. I have observed many individuals who have had a diagnosis that switches back and forth between ADHD and Aspergers.  Another problem is that some individuals may get a diagnosis that will hold back their progress such as conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder.

Do Not Get Hung Up On Labels

Diagnosis with either the current DSMI-V or the proposed DSM-V is not precise like a diagnosis for bacterial infections where precise lab tests can be used.  Psychiatric diagnostic labels were determined by both scientific studies and the opinion of committees sitting around conference room tables in hotels.  Nobody debates the results of lab tests for a strep throat.  Over the years, many psychiatric diagnoses have changed.

In conclusion, when individuals on the milder end of the autism spectrum are labeled, you must remember that the following words all mean the same thing.  Asperger, Aspie, geek, nerd, mild autism, social communication disorder or socially awkward. The science clearly shows that the social problems on the autism spectrum are a true continuum. It is likely that some of the individuals who tell their stories in this book would be diagnosed as social communication disorder if DSM-V proposed criteria were used.