Proposed Changes in Autism Definition Expected to Reduce Number of Individuals with Diagnosis

Health Care

Proposed changes in the way autism is defined could result in fewer individuals receiving the diagnosis, according to a new study. The proposed change in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (the DSM) would create a single diagnostic category of “autism spectrum disorders.” This would combine the current diagnoses of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified).

Researchers found that half of the people diagnosed with autism in the study would no longer merit the diagnosis under the proposed criteria. They indicated that the proposed definition would exclude many people who are higher functioning. Under the proposal, a person would have to show three deficits in social interaction and communication and two repetitive behaviors, a stricter set of criteria. Under the current criteria, people must show at least six out of 12 possible behaviors to be diagnosed with autism.
The DSM is the standard classification of mental disorders used by health professionals in making diagnoses and research. Insurance companies also use it to determine reimbursement. Final changes to the manual are expected to be completed in the next year, with the new edition released about May 2013.

For more information, read Report: New Autism Definition Could End ‘Epidemic’.