The panel responsible for crafting new diagnostic criteria for autism, intellectual disability and other disorders is seeking public comment for a third and final time.
The American Psychiatric Association said Wednesday that it will accept public comments now through June 15 on proposed changes for the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The first revision in more than a decade to what’s considered the bible of mental health disorders, the new edition of the manual is expected to be published in May 2013.
Among the most controversial proposals is a dramatic change to the definition of autism. Those behind the DSM are looking to fold autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified under one umbrella diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorders,” with diagnosticians indicating a level of severity associated with an individual’s condition.
In order to qualify under the new criteria, individuals would have to exhibit specific types of deficits in socialization as well as behavior.
The change has many in the autism community worried after a study released earlier this year found that a significant number of people currently diagnosed with autism may be stripped of the label under the new definition, potentially leaving them without needed services.
Nonetheless, the DSM panel tasked with revising the autism diagnosis is standing firm on their proposal. In a commentary published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry the group said that preliminary results from field tests on the proposed changes found the criteria to be “sensitive and specific.”
In addition to the autism changes, the DSM committee has also proposed replacing the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual developmental disorder,” reflecting a shift that many government entities and education institutions have already undertaken in recent years. What’s more, the criteria for the condition would also be altered to focus more heavily on mental abilities and adaptive functioning skills rather than IQ alone.
Other conditions slated to be changed in the forthcoming DSM include those related to communication, socialization, motor skills and behavior.
Two previous DSM comment periods in 2010 and 2011 have already netted nearly 10,800 responses, which led to some alterations to the proposals, officials with the American Psychiatric Association said.
“The comments we have received over the past two years have helped sharpen our focus, not only on the strongest research and clinical evidence to support DSM-5 criteria but on the real-world implications of these changes,” said John Oldham, president of the organization.
Once the current public comment period comes to a close, those behind the DSM revision will incorporate any additional feedback in their final recommendations which are expected to go before the psychiatric organization’s board in December, officials said.