For the first time in many years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has been revised. This is the fifth revision of this important manual, which is the diagnostic reference manual used primarily by clinicians in the U.S. to diagnose mental disorders. The drafters had been proposing several changes over the last few years as a part of this current revision process. The APA has published three separate drafts of the manual on their website, and received over 13,000 comments from 2010 – 2012, as well as thousands of emails and letters.
After careful review of the comments, the new edition contains several key changes. First, Learning Disorder has been changed to Specific Learning Disorder and the previous types of Learning Disorder (Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Disorder of Written Expression) are no longer included. Instead, the type of Learning Disorder will instead be specified as noted in the diagnosis.
Importantly, the definition of learning disorders also states, “…the diagnostic criteria do not depend upon comparisons with overall IQ and are consistent with the changes in the USA’s reauthorized IDEA regulations (2004) which state that “the criteria adopted by each State must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability…” This change is in line with federal law and the movements in the field. Read CEC's comments on the change here.
Next, the DSM-5 also updated language by changing the term mental retardation to intellectual disability. This change has also occurred throughout federal law and is congruent with the field. Read Read CEC's comments on the change here.
Finally, there is now just a single definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder, which comprises 4 previous separate disorders. As the American Psychological Association explains:
ASD now encompasses the previous DSM-IV autistic disorder (autism), Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.
ASD is characterized by 1) deficits in social communication and social interaction and 2) restricted repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities (RRBs). Because both components are required for diagnosis of ASD, social communication disorder is diagnosed if no RRBs are present.
This change ignited the most controversy over the years and many in the field will continue to closely monitor its impact on the change in diagnosis rate and services. CEC will work closely with its Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities to determine impact and monitor any changes. To read more about the changes to the DSM and the process of change click here.