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Proposed Change Would Group Asperger's With Autism

Under changes proposed this week to psychiatry's diagnostic manual, Asperger's syndrome would no longer be a separate diagnosis, and would instead be grouped into the autism-spectrum-disorders category.

Asperger's syndrome is a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum that affects a person's ability to read social cues and communicate with others. Individuals with Asperger's may have very strong, all-consuming interests in specific topics. It became a separate diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1994.

Supporters of the change say the elimination of Asperger's as a separate diagnosis would avoid confusion and lead to better services.

"This change accurately reflects science and practice from the last few decades, and it will significantly improve long-term service delivery for adults, adolescents, and children on the autism spectrum," said Scott Michael Robertson, the vice president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and an adult on the autism spectrum. "In many states in the U.S., such as California, individuals who carry Asperger's and PDD-NOS autism identifications are often restricted from receiving appropriate services. Moving to a unified diagnosis for all people on the autism spectrum would open up long-term access for services."

The American Psychiatric Association posted this change to the autism diagnosis, and other proposed changes to the DSM-V, on its Web site. The changes are not final, and viewers will be able to submit comments until April 20. The fifth edition of the manual will be published in May 2013.

Please share your thoughts about whether the proposed change would have an impact on special education services for children with Asperger's syndrome.

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