Change in Asperger's and autistic disorder diagnosis

USQ senior lecturers Gavin Beccaria (left) and Patrick O'Brien during a workshop break with Tracey Bennion, Rob Symon and Mike Bennion from Education Queensland, Hervey Bay.
USQ senior lecturers Gavin Beccaria (left) and Patrick O'Brien during a workshop break with Tracey Bennion, Rob Symon and Mike Bennion from Education Queensland, Hervey Bay. Jocelyn Watts

CHILDREN who could previously be diagnosed with either autisic disorder or Asperger's Syndrome will now all be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

The change follows the American Psychiatric Association's latest release of its diagnostic manual.

That and other key changes in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) were discussed at a USQ Fraser Coast workshop presented by USQ senior lecturer Gavin Beccaria on Friday, July 19.

The manual sets the criteria for health professionals worldwide to determine diagnosis.

The $25 million revision is the result of research since the last version was published in 1990.

Dr Beccaria said the latest version was released in May and will be slowly implemented in the next 12-18 months.

"Because this workshop attracted a large number of school guidance officers, I targeted the topics more at early childhood and school level education," he said.

"Participants asked many questions, particularly about what pertains to children and the education sector, such as intellectual impairment and Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

"The major change from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5 is around the ASD, which is a new category despite being used in education settings over the past 10 to 15 years.

"ASD not a new term but it is a new diagnostic category within the DSM-5.

"The ASD changes are based on taking a more holistic approach rather than checklist approach, for example severity ratings and range from requiring support to requiring very substantial support for both social communication restricted/repetitive behaviours."

In other key changes within the DSM-5, binge eating is now officially recognised as a disorder.

Dr Beccaria said that in DSM-IV-TR, binge eating was an appendix as a condition that required further study.

"Its inclusion in the revised edition as a disorder is intended to better represent the symptoms and behaviours of people with this condition," he said.

"Over the past 10-15 years there have been increasing research and evidence to support a diagnosis whereby people consume an enormous amount of calories in one sitting, they feel a sense of loss of control, and there is no evidence of compensatory behaviours."

Also, the name mental retardation is now officially known as intellectual disability. 

"The change in name better reflects the use of this term within industry," Dr Beccaria said.

"It is also arguable that intellectual disability sounds less pejorative than mental retardation."  

Discussion at the interactive and informative workshop at USQ Fraser Coast on Friday also included diagnostic systems and their limitations, surviving the pitfalls of diagnosis and accessing services.

Dr Beccaria is currently writing a book chapter on the DSM-5 for Wiley.

Before moving to academia, he was the director of psychology at the Toowoomba Health Service and managed 35 psychologists.

Education Queensland's Jenny White, USQ Careers Counsellor Jenny Gunn and Fraser Coast Psychologist Karen Howe at the DSM-5 workshop at USQ Fraser Coast.
Education Queensland's Jenny White, USQ Careers Counsellor Jenny Gunn and Fraser Coast Psychologist Karen Howe at the DSM-5 workshop at USQ Fraser Coast. Jocelyn Watts

Topics:  asperger's syndrome autism diagnosis usq fraser coast

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