The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) will have the revised diagnostic criteria for autism that’s had advocates concerned for most of 2012. The new guidelines call for autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified to be all folded under the diagnosis of “autistic spectrum disorder”.
I’ve blogged already on how there’s mixed reaction to this move. I’m still not sure what to think, myself.
A Good Reason Behind the Revised Diagnostic Criteria for Autism?
The last time the DSM was revised to any substantial degree was 1994 (a couple of years before I started my psychology degree and learned about the DSM myself, for what it’s worth). We were taught in my classes that it’s the Bible for psychologists. The APA (American Psychiatric Association) doesn’t just decide to review it on a whim, and to change it – well, I’m certain that the team of experts in charge of looking into the revised diagnostic criteria for autism was involved in a staggering amount of research, consultation, and discussion about what changes needed to be made and any potential implications. There was even a call for public input in the summer. The revised diagnostic criteria for autism will appear in the DSM-V because a group of very knowledgable people absolutely believed that it needed to be there.
There are major concerns about the revised diagnostic criteria to autism. One of the major concerns is that the new criteria will alter the way that people are diagnosed substantially enough that some autistic people may actually lose their diagnosis, and therefore eligibility for support services. I discuss this concern, and others, at length in these other posts about the revised diagnostic criteria for autism:
Also, about the revised diagnostic criteria and name change for “mental retardation” diagnosis:
Revised Diagnostic Criteria for Autism: Implications for the Autism Acceptance Movement
But I know more about the autism acceptance movement than I did when I blogged about this before, and I have new questions now. I want to know how that movement feels about forms of autism that sometimes manifest very differently now being all referred to as one thing.
I think it’s appropriate to use nationality as a way to discuss my thoughts on this. I’m Canadian. I talk about being Canadian. I describe myself as “Canadian”. However, also being born in the East Coast province of Newfoundland, I also sometimes refer to myself as “Newfoundlander” (not “Newfie”, for the record. I can’t think of very many Newfoundlanders who actually like the term “Newfie”). Newfoundland’s culture is very different from the rest of the country’s, for a number of reasons. If I’d stayed in Newfoundland and been raised there, my experience of being Canadian would be very different than that of a Canadian born and raised in, say, Ontario. To have someone suddenly say to me, “You can’t refer to yourself as “Newfoundlander” anymore. You must now think of yourself as just Canadian” would feel to me like someone was trying to take a part of my identity away.
Do autistic people feel the same way about the new umbrella diagnosis for autism? From my experience of working with autistic people, I’d say (and someone please correct me if I’m wrong) that the experience of someone with, say, Asperger’s Syndrome is likely to be much different than the experience of someone with PDD. Are the distinctions between different types of autism that important to people who consider autism an important part of their identity? Or is “autistic” enough?
I’m asking these questions because I honestly don’t know. Perhaps you could share your opinions, readers?
It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out when the DSM-V is published in Spring 2013.
More about the revised diagnostic criteria for autism in the DSM-V: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/12/03/psychiatrists-approve-dsm/16878/