The fifth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will be released by the American Psychiatric Association this weekend. The new edition introduces two fundamental changes in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. First it collapses previously distinct autism subtypes – including autistic disorder and Asperger syndrome – into one unifying diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Second, the current three symptom domains of social impairment, communication deficits and repetitive/restricted behaviors will become two – social communication impairment and repetitive/restricted behaviors.
The DSM-5 committee has stated that all individuals who currently have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, including those with Asperger syndrome, will be able to retain an ASD diagnosis. This means that no one with a current diagnosis on the autism spectrum should “lose” their diagnosis because of the changes in diagnostic criteria. Also, the committee has stressed that the new DSM-5 criteria represent a “living document,” in which changes can and likely will be made as new studies are conducted.