If you have a child with autism you have likely heard of the DSM-IV. The DSM-IV stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). It is published by the American Psychiatric Association and it’s the primary manual used by clinicians to provide a formal diagnosis of autism and related disorders.The DSM-IV has been under revision for several years and a new edition, the DSM-V, has just been released. One of the most significant changes is that the separate diagnostic labels of Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and PDD-NOS have been replaced by one umbrella term “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Further distinctions will be made according to severity levels. The severity levels are based on the amount of support needed, due to challenges with social communication and restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. For example, a person might be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3. The DSM-V revision website says the reasons for using the umbrella term of “Autism Spectrum Disorder” are 1) the old way isn’t precise enough—different clinicians diagnose the same person with different disorders, and some change their diagnosis of the same symptoms differently from year to year, and 2) autism is defined by a common set of behaviors and it should be characterized by a single name according to severity.
The removal of the formal diagnoses of Asperger’s Disorder and PDD-NOS is a major change. People who currently hold these diagnoses will likely receive a different diagnosis when re-evaluated.