Catherine Lord, an autism expert at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York who was on the psychiatric group’s autism task force, said anyone who met criteria for Asperger’s in the old manual would be included in the new diagnosis.
One reason for the change is that some states and school systems don’t provide services for children and adults with Asperger's, or provide fewer services than those given an autism diagnosis, she said.
Autism researcher Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, said small studies have suggested the new criteria will be effective. But she said it will be crucial to monitor so that children don’t lose services.
Other changes include:
—A new diagnosis for severe recurrent temper tantrums — disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Critics say it will medicalize kids’ who have normal tantrums. Supporters say it will address concerns about too many kids being misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with powerful psychiatric drugs. Bipolar disorder involves sharp mood swings and affected children are sometimes very irritable or have explosive tantrums.
—Eliminating the term ‘‘gender identity disorder.’’ It has been used for children or adults who strongly believe that they were born the wrong gender. But many activists believe the condition isn’t a disorder and say calling it one is stigmatizing. The term would be replaced with ‘‘gender dysphoria,’’ which means emotional distress over one’s gender. Supporters equated the change with removing homosexuality as a mental illness in the diagnostic manual, which happened decades ago.
AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/LindseyTanner .