Absorbing Asperger's Syndrome: Experts Say Planned Changes to Diagnostic Manual Backed by Data

Article excerpt

Asperger's syndrome will almost certainly not be part of a formal psychological evaluation now that the American Psychological Association has given its approval to proposed revisions in the DSM- 5, local counselors confirmed.

Asperger's will be subsumed into the more comprehensive descriptor of autism spectrum disorders, just one of many changes to be applied in the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, or DSM-5. The update to the mental health field's iconic diagnostic tool is expected to improve patient treatment overall for millions, said Rene Daman, director of the Oklahoma Autism Network.

And most patients who have already been diagnosed with challenges such as Asperger's probably won't notice a change in treatment or insurance coverage, she said, although some may be bothered by labeling.

"This doesn't mean that those people will no longer be eligible for the services they've been receiving ... even the individuals who have the extremely mild forms," she said. "They will now fall under a different umbrella, but in some regards they had that anyway. And in some ways, this may actually make it easier for people with Asperger's to receive services. Only time will tell.

"For some of the older people who have been diagnosed with Asperger's, they may not like being lumped with the whole," she said. "Because when people hear the term Asperger's, they equate it with above-average intelligence and difficulty in social interactions. If they're identified with autism instead, they might not feel that identification defines them as clearly."

The DSM has been frozen in its current edition for about 30 years without a major update. The APA has been working toward the DSM-5 for about eight years in order to better reflect new information in neurology, genetics and the behavioral sciences to improve mental health care. The APA has invited public comment throughout the million-dollar process. The final version is expected to be released in May.

The changes will potentially affect millions of children and adults worldwide, as the manual is also important for the insurance industry in deciding what treatment to pay for, and for school districts in deciding how to allot special education resources. …