Asperger Syndrome: Disappearing act
By 2013, the diagnoses of Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Delay could — in a highly controversial move — disappear from the medical lexicon in favor of the broader term “autism spectrum disorder.” The change is among several unveiled this week as planned revisions to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Asperger’s only became part of that lexicon 15 years ago. Why so short-lived? The answers vary. ““Nobody has been able to show consistent differences between what clinicians diagnose as Asperger’s syndrome and what they diagnose as mild autistic disorder,” says Catherine Lord, director of the Autism and Communication Disorders Centers at the University of Michigan, one of 13 members of a group evaluating autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders for the DSM. The group wants autism viewed as a continuum, from mild to severe forms, with treatment available for multiple aspects of the diagnosis. Opponents fear the change will confuse insurers and limit treatment options. Well-known autism advocate Temple Grandin , whose biopic recently appeared on HBO starring Claire Danes, says of the debate: “P.D.D.-N.O.S., I’d throw in the garbage can. But I’d keep Asperger’s.” In January, the American Psychiatric Association opened the proposal to public comment.
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