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DSM-5 Changes: Social Communication and Autism Spectrum Disorders

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the manual that serves as the universal authority for psychiatric diagnosis and recommended treatments in the United States. The latest version, DSM-5, was published by the American Psychiatric Association in May 2013. The last version, DSM-IV, was published back in 1994.

I was curious about some of the specific changes to autism and Asperger’s syndrome, and thought I would post some of the other changes related to developmental learning disorders for other parents. I’ve also covered a little bit about the new diagnosis category social communication disorder.

New Diagnosis: Social Communication Disorder

1) What does the new term social communication disorder (SCD) cover?

The term social communication disorder replaces language disorder, which included expressive and mixed receptive-expressive language disorders. It also replaces speech sound disorder, which was called phonological disorder and childhood-onset fluency disorder, which was the term used for stuttering.

2) What else does social communication disorder include?

Social communication disorder also includes social (pragmatic) communication disorder, a diagnosis for those who display persistent difficulties in using, understanding and interpretation of verbal and nonverbal communication (e.g., body language).

Social (pragmatic) communication disorder is one of the hallmarks of a person diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. SCD can also be used as a diagnosis on its own if a person doesn’t display repetitive behaviors, interests or activities of autism spectrum disorder. (1)

3) Why did they revise this area of the DSM?

This new diagnosis category has two advantages.

One, those with social communication disorder will be able to be referred for language therapy. Up until now, unless a student had a diagnosis of ASD (autism spectrum disorder), they may not have gotten a referral for treatment if their only problem was SCM alone.

Second, the definition of SCD includes non-verbal communication.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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