Asperger’s syndrome to be removed from psychiatric manual

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The American Psychiatric Association voted December 1 to eliminate Asperger’s Syndrome from the next edition of the widely used Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), choosing instead to merge the syndrome with autism spectrum disorder.

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Definition Changes

Since Asperger’s Syndrome is generally seen as a less severe disability than regular autism, disability advocates have voiced concerns for years that a change in the definition of the syndrome could trigger a significant roll back in benefits and other services for people previously classified as having the disability.

However, the APA, in voting to change the classification, said the change in definition was made to represent the range of diagnoses under the autism spectrum disorder and that people who previously met the criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome in the old manual will be included in the new diagnosis,” according to CBS News.

Dr. Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, said the advocacy group is “cautiously” optimistic regarding the announcement.

“Going forward, it will be crucial to study how the new criteria function in real world community settings…”We are reassured that the DSM-5 committee has stated that all individuals who currently have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, including those with Asperger syndrome, will be able to retain an ASD diagnosis,” Dawson said in a news release. “This means that no one with a current diagnosis on the autism spectrum should “lose” their diagnosis because of the changes in diagnostic criteria.”

This will be the first major change to the manual since the release of the fourth edition in 1994. The addition of Asperger’s Syndrome that year has proved controversial, as it is often credited as a key factor in the large increase in people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders during the past couple of decades.

The full edition will be released in May 2013.