Aspergers & DSM-5

While the label of “Asperger’s Syndrome” has been removed from the DSM 5, know that the diagnosis itself remains only now with a new label, Social Communication Disorder, as a mild form of autism spectrum disorder.

We know that this disorder has increased substantially in the nearly 20 years since the DSM-IV was published. Although all of our eyes are steadfast to the aftermath of the DSM 5, people who are currently receiving treatment and care for Aspergers Syndrome will continue to do so, and insurance companies, Medicaid and others, as we understand it, will continue to cover the costs of treating it.

(Experts at AutismSpeaks.org have put together answers to 5 questions below to help you better understand what the DSM-5 changes mean and how they might affect your loved one’s diagnosis and access to services.)

1) Can I or my child retain the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome?

Many individuals may wish to retain their previous diagnosis as the label is considered part of their identity or may reflect a peer group with whom they identify. This is perfectly acceptable. A clinician can indicate both the DSM-5 diagnosis as well as the previous diagnosis, such as Asperger syndrome, in an individual’s clinical record.

The DSM-5 text states “ Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnoses of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder”.

2) What is the new Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder diagnosis?

Social Communication Disorder is a new diagnostic category. It is meant to apply to individuals who have deficits in the social use of language, but do not have the restricted interests or repetitive behavior you see in autism spectrum disorders. Some children who previously would have received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS may now receive a diagnosis of Social Communication Disorder. This should only apply to newly diagnosed individuals. Individuals who receive this diagnosis would likely benefit from services typically provided to individuals with autism.

3) Is Social Communication Disorder part of the autism spectrum?

SCD is not included under the autism spectrum disorder category, instead it is a communication disorder. If an individual meets criteria for an autism spectrum disorder, they will receive that diagnosis rather than SCD.

4) Will insurance companies cover treatments for Social Communication Disorder?

If this is a new diagnosis, it is unclear what challenges people will have in accessing insurance coverage. We will keep watch and report as time passes.

5) If my child is currently receiving Special Education services with an Asperger or PDD-NOS diagnosis, will these services continue as is or do we need to get re-evaluated?

Your child should not receive a standard re-evaluation and re-consideration of treatments unless a clinical or legal reason to do so.

On a personal note: The loss of the name Aspergers Syndrome from the new DSM-5 has not affected our household. Our son, Sam, still proudly states he has Aspergers Syndrome as this best explains his diagnosis to us and those around us. We’ve come a long way in understanding this mostly male ‘disorder’ in the past 12 years or so and to lose such an exact explanation of actions & behaviors feels like we’ve experienced a major set-back in understanding these individuals. Social Communication Disorder may, in time, prove a positive replacement but until then…Aspergers Syndrome remains!

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