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Guideline Changes Have Asperger's Community on Edge
Date:4/18/2013

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- People with Asperger's syndrome -- mild autism with normal or sometimes superior verbal ability and intelligence -- are at a crossroads: Their diagnosis is about to disappear.

In 1994, Asperger's was recognized as its own disorder in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4). For some people, realizing that they fit into the Asperger's diagnosis was a "eureka" moment of sorts.

In mid-May, however, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) will unveil the latest edition of the diagnostic manual. In the DSM-5, the Asperger's term will not exist -- and many people with Asperger's are upset.

Hallmark symptoms -- significant impairment in work and social functioning, inability to understand nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors and restricted routines -- will be folded into the term "autism spectrum disorders," ranging from the mildest to most severe autism.

The APA says that with the change, diagnosis will become more accurate and consistent.

"The intent was that it would make diagnosis more straightforward," said Catherine Lord, a member of the APA group that updated the diagnoses. "They're not necessarily different disorders because, at least biologically, nobody can differentiate Asperger's from autism."

"One of the good things that the idea of Asperger's syndrome did was make people aware that somebody can have quite significant social deficits but be a very intelligent person," said Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. "The goal of our committee is not to lose those people but to say they can be recognized within this broader concept of autism spectrum disorders."

But many with Asperger's believe they will fall off the spectrum and lose access to needed services. And they fe
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