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Pr Brian King: autism spectrum disorder and DSM-5

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DSM5 and autism diagnosis

Pr Brian King, Seattle, USA



So there have been a number of changes in the diagnostic criteria from DSM4 to DSM5. Firstly, we have eliminated all of the categorical diagnoses within the pervasive developmental disorders spectrum. So within that broader category, there used to be Asperger’s disorder, autism, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, childhood disintegrative disorder and Rett’s disorder, all of those are gone. And what we have instead, which is meant to really embrace that entire spectrum, is the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.


Another change has been to move from 3 primary criteria relating to social communication, language and restricted repetitive behaviors, to just two criteria, recognizing that language disturbance is not specific to autism.


Lastly, we’ve inserted specifiers to indicate that someone had a milder form perhaps of the disorder. Now we can say that an individual has autism spectrum disorder with or without language impairment, with or without intellectual disability, with or without a regressive course. And with these levels of specifiers, with or without an associated genetic or known condition, we can really drill down into a much more precise description of what’s going on.


One last big change to the criteria is a movement away from specific abnormalities that would almost be listed as a checklist, where each problem was at the worst possible level, to something that looks like more of a continuum of impairment.



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