by Stacy Kramer OT Reg. (Ont), Toronto Children’s Therapy Center Clinical Director

We all know that a child’s diagnosis is just a label – it does not change who a child is now or who he or she will become.  However, the diagnosis does have important implications for the child’s access to service, funding, and specialized instruction.  So it should be of great interest to many families that there are some big changes proposed regarding the way children will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Clinicians who make this diagnosis, including both physicians and psychologists, all use a standard reference book, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  This book, published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), describes and defines the various mental health and behavioral disorders diagnosed in both children and adults.

In May 2013 the fifth revision of the DSM, the DSM- V, is planned to be published.  This revision will contain new criteria for ASD.  Some of the most striking changes are what will not be included – no longer will children be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD), or Autism.  Instead, all these disorders will fall under the umbrella term of ASD.  The ASD diagnosis itself will be broken down into three levels of severity, Level 1 being the most mild form, and Level 3 the most severe.  The criteria for diagnosis will also change slightly; for instance, under the new criteria, a delay or deficit in language will have to be accompanied with difficulty using language in a social context in order to be considered a possible sign of ASD.

For a more detailed understanding of these proposals, click on the link below:

It is important to note that these changes will only impact future diagnosis – children who have already been diagnosed should not have to repeat the diagnostic procedure.