DSM 5 Changes

The new DSM 5 was released on May 18, 2013. There has been much controversy over the changes in this 5th edition in many areas of mental health and rehabilitation. I am going to talk about the changes affecting speech pathologists.

The 2 major changes that jumped out at me were:

  • Autism
  • Communication Disorders


There has been a lot of buzz over the changes in Autism. 

From what I gather from my research and news watching, the criteria for diagnosing autism as well as the the diagnosis itself has been majorly overhauled.

Diagnosis: The diagnosis of autism is now “autism spectrum disorder” with a severity of mild, moderate, or severe or a level of 1, 2, or 3. Autistic disorder, asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) will no longer be used.

Criteria: To qualify for an autism spectrum disorder, a person must have a deficit in social communication and have repetitive/restrictive behaviors currently or in the past. A social language impairment is no longer considered when diagnosing a person with autism.

New Addition: Social communication disorder has been born.  In order to have a social communication disorder,  a person must demonstrate a deficit in social communication/social language impairment without the presence of repetitive/restrictive behaviors.

Communication Disorders

Communication Disorders now have 2 distinct categories:

Language Disorders:

  • Specific Language Impairment
  • Language Emergence
  • Social Communication Disorder - NEW!

Speech Disorders:

  • Voice Disorder
  • Speech-Sound Disorder
  • Motor Speech Disorder
  • Child Onset Fluency Disorder

My Reaction...

I Don't Know!!!

Time will tell how this will play out and how we, as professionals, need to adjust.

A child who already has a diagnosis of Apsperger’s or PDD-NOS will not not lose it. They will be "grandfathered in." However, it seems that children with a diagnosis of a social communication disorder MAY have difficulty getting funding in the future since they will no longer fall under the "autism umbrella." This may affect services in the private practice world.

In schools, I don't foresee a big change. A student's individualized goals, accommodations , and supports in their IEP are based on the child's level of need and performance in the classroom and not solely on their diagnosis. Phew!

Other Changes to Note...

  • Mental Retardation is now called Intellectual Developmental Disorder.
  • Learning Disorders are now called Specific Learning Disorders and Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Disorder of Written Expression are no longer used as a separate diagnosis.
  • Oral language difficulties are not considered when assessing children for a Specific Learning Disorder...Why?....Who know's?! This is one to monitor and see how we as speech pathologists need to adjust!

Please leave a comment and share how the DSM 5 changes are affecting you!

Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference.

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