Why the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome will disappear

Lisa Jo Rudy


The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is now in the process of developing and finalizing the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) Version 5. The DSM is used by doctors to decide whether a particular group of symptoms qualifies for a specific diagnosis. In May 2013, when the DSM 5 is put into practice, autism spectrum disorders as we know them will change radically, and many people who are now considered to be "autistic" may find themselves with a brand new diagnosis. Unless something changes between now and then, as of 2013, Asperger syndrome will no longer exist as a diagnosis.

I wanted to know more about this decision, so I asked the APA directly. The responses I received were written by Dr. Bryan King of the Neurodevelopmental Disorders workgroup.

Question: Where exactly does a person with the present symptoms of Asperger syndrome fall in the new DSM?

A person with present symptoms of Asperger syndrome would fall in the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and we would expect there to be additional specifiers like "without intellectual disability", "with fluent speech", etc., which we believe will better describe the diagnostic picture for such a person than is currently done with the term Asperger Syndrome alone.

Question: What is your "official" perspective on the concerns of the Asperger's community that their new-found sense of identity will be lost with the DSMV?

We cannot speak to these issues from an “official” perspective. However, these concerns are certainly very important to us, and we have actively sought feedback from the community throughout this process. Actually, many individuals have shared with us their pleasure in not being separated from autism by the Asperger diagnosis, as there can be differential access to necessary services and supports in some settings. Ultimately, our official position is that the diagnoses should reflect the state of the science, and all of the changes that we are considering derive from that position.

Courtesy of About.com, a NY Times Company


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