Autism Diagnostic Changes
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the diagnostic tool used by psychiatrists in the US to diagnose patients. The book contains definitions of diseases, symptoms, diagnostic tools, and treatment recommendations. The most recent edition of the book, which is the universal authority in the field, was published in May 2013. Many changes were made from the previous edition (DSM-IV-TR) was published in 2000.
In particular, substantial changes were made to the criteria for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A group from the University of Wisconsin wanted to know how this would affect the diagnosis of ASD. So, under the leadership of Matthew J. Maenner, Ph.D., the team looked at clinician’s reports for 644,883 8-year-old children in the United States who were participating in the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) program. According to the criteria laid out in the old edition of the DSM 6,577 of the children would have been considered to have ASD. However, when evaluated using DSM-5 criteria only 81.2% of those children would have been considered to have ASD. No change was seen in how the diagnosis affected girls versus boys diagnosed with ASD.
Using DSM-5 criteria the prevalence of autism in 2008 would have been 1% as opposed to 1.13% based on the old criteria. These findings caused the researchers to expect to see a decrease in the number of children diagnosed with ASD. However, this may not necessarily be the case. The authors wrote in the study, “this effect could be tempered by future adaptation of diagnostic practices and documentation of behaviors to fit the new criteria.”
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