DSM-5 Impact on Services

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With the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5, many individuals and families worried about what impact the new criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) would have on supportive services.

Some advocates suggest that the unification of the diagnosis allows those who were previously classified by Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) or Asperger Disorder to gain easier access to services and supports in education. For example, the access to educational supports is governed by individual states’ implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and, in some states, individuals with PDD-NOS and Asperger Disorder do not qualify under the state definition of autism. If these states choose to adopt the DSM-5 standards for ASD, individuals formerly diagnosed with PDD-NOS and Aspergers should qualify under the autism category.

However, others argue that the immersion of Asperger Disorder into ASD can pose issues with the identity of many people previously diagnosed with Asperger Disorder. Aspergers is seen as an advantage by many with the diagnosis, and these individuals may have difficulty identifying with individuals across the wider autism spectrum.

It is difficult to predict how the new criteria in the DSM-5 will be interpreted by the states and what effect the changes will have on both education and healthcare services. Previous diagnoses of  Asperger disorder and PDD-NOS have been grandfathered into the new ASD diagnosis in DSM-5. Individuals with a history of these diagnoses do not automatically lose their diagnosis and do not need to be reevaluated under the new criteria. It is important to be aware of your home state’s rules and regulations on education and Medicaid programs in order to best support individuals diagnosed with ASD.

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Last Updated: August 20, 2020

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.


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