This last year has seen the publication of the American Psychiatric Association’s controversial DSM 5 diagnostic manual. Most controversial of all is the change to the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. Its been reclassified by the APA as merely an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Aspergers will no longer exist as a diagnosis going forward. What will this mean to those with Aspergers, and the parents/carers of Aspies?
For many, the diagnosis of Aspergers defines them. For us, it makes Daniel the little boy he is. As unwelcome as the diagnosis was, it did at least give us an answer for Daniel’s behaviour, so of course, we guard the diagnosis jealously! The reclassification of Apergers as an ASD might raise questions over the diagnosis given to all Aspies. Are psychiatrists/psychologists making it up as they go along? Is there anything really wrong with Daniel. Of course, we know there is, and after all, its just how its classified. But for us, Apergers defines a set of behaviours that mean we can ensure Daniel gets the right help. Reclassifying it as an ASD means that it could be much harder to focus help. Also, for aspies that are claiming DLA, how will the DWP look at any claims that have Aspergers as the condition being claimed for? Any claim that might be borderline might just get refused on the basis of DSM 5 – is Aspergers real? Is the claimant claiming for a condition that the influential APA aren’t sure about how to classify? It could be that its enough to come down on the side of not qualifying for DLA. It could all make a big difference.
However, I did encounter a reassuring article on the National Autistic Society’s website on the changes in DSM 5. For starters, in the UK, the principal diagnostic guidance comes from the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases. It essence, the diagnosis for Aspergers for those already diagnosed will remain. It will help us all to make sure our Aspies get the right help. In theory, the changes in DSM 5 should make the diagnostic process simpler. It will include sensory behaviours that many people with autism are affected by on a day-to-day basis. Daniel has sensory issues, and it reassuring to know that this is being included in the diagnostic process. A wider range of difficulties will be included in the DSM criteria. Its good that diagnosticians will be taking cognisance of the widest range of symptoms that will result in a positive diagnosis that can help many.
I’m reassured that Daniel won’t lose his diagnosis. Chances are he’d have been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Maybe as long as DSM 5 will ensure that those who need this diagnosis for the support crucial to the, then the changes might not be so bad. Any change is concerning though, and I only hope that the changes in DSM 5 don’t make the playing field too unlevel.