The New DSM-V, My Take

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By now if you are involved in Autism as a parent, family, caretaker and especially professional – you heard of the New DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) that was released by The American Psychiatric Association last year. If I could sum this edition in one word in relation to autism for me would be “perfect”.

Here is why;

First, the old DSM-IV divided autism into many areas – PDD-NOS, Autistic Disorder, Rett’s & Aspergers. With the new DSM-5, all will be called ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)

2nd, based on the child’s severity of symptoms will determine the level of services and the intensity they will get. In other words, before the less severe of the symptoms the more services or earlier that child got intervention, which left many children with severe ASD on the sidelines waiting for treatment and services while losing precious window of learning opportunity.

3rd, Children and Adults will no longer be divided into high or low functioning by using their verbal abilities since we know that verbal does not mean high functioning and nonverbal does not mean low functioning. In other words, each child will truly be diagnosed and treated based on their needs.

4th, Hyper and Hypo sensory sensitivity will be evaluated. This is particularly good since many children with ASD also have sensory processing disorder (SPD) and did not always get therapy for it. Many public and private insurance companies did not cover SPD and always assumed every symptom of autism was a behavior problem. It is not and now children and individuals with ASD can get proper sensory treatments. This will also hopefully lead to more rigorous SPD research.

5th, Children and Adults with ASD don’t have to get re-evaluated meaning DSM-5 will be used for the next diagnoses. It is not a do-over. In other words, if you were diagnosed with Autism through DSM-4, your diagnoses is still valid.

Basically, everything else is still the same. A child must still lack or have delay in communication skills, social skills, repetitive behaviors, rigid routines and motor skills.

I wanted to wait a while to write my take because I wanted to see how ASD communities reacted to this and as with everything autism, there has been a lot of disagreements. Some said this is intended to decrease ASD numbers, it is designed to kick aspergers off the list, it is this, that or the other. I really think the new DSM-5 is good for everyone. I advocated, really pushed and God knows gave my comments to the committee that was writing this, some of whom visited us at IACC. Some IACC members were heavily involved as well in preparing and giving advice.

The way I look at this is;

Let’s say you went to the ER (emergency room) and you had a bleeding arm then another patient came in who could not breathe. Who do you think will be seen first and treated – the patient with the more severe symptom of not breathing – right. Well for autism, for years treatment was provided to the less severe ASD patient while the more severe patient was on an endless wait list, discharged or never admitted.

Yes, all patients should get treatments but I really believe we should help those with the most need since they need to catch up more. And, this new diagnoses criteria will level the playing field or the treatment field to a more humane manner. I am excited about this and know that all kids and individuals will get services based on their need.

Isn’t that what we all want. I think so.


Above words are my opinion & do not reflect any committee or agency

Idil – Somali Autism Mom & Minority Advocate

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