Concerns over change in diagnostic definition for autism

Concerns over change in diagnostic definition for autism

By Liz Lockhart

The revised diagnostic definition for autism may considerably affect the number of people who qualify for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, according to experts.

The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM), proposes changes to the diagnostic definition in 2013.  The DSM is widely used across the world to diagnose mental health conditions.

The findings of researchers from Yale School of Medicine were released at a meeting of the Icelandic Medical Association.

Fred Volkmar M.D. who conducted the study with colleagues from the Yale Child Study Centre (CSC), said ‘Given the potential implications of these findings for service eligibility, our findings offer important information for consideration by the task force finalising DSM-5 diagnostic criteria.’

Researchers in this study found that found that in a group of people who did not have intellectual disabilities and were evaluated during the 1994 DSM-IV field trial, half may not now qualify for a diagnosis of autism under the proposed new definition. 

Volker emphasised that this may have less impact on the diagnosis of more cognitively impaired people and that these preliminary findings relate only to the most cognitively able people.

‘Use of such labels, particularly in the United States, can have important implications for service.  Major changes in diagnosis also pose issues for comparing results across research studies,’ Volker said.

The full study results will be published in the April print edition of the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Source: Yale University 

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