DSM 5's Severity Levels
of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The DSM 5 specifies the severity levels of Autism Spectrum Disorder:

  • Level 1: "Requiring Support"
  • Level 2: "Requiring Substantial Support"
  • Level 3: "Requiring Very Substantial Support"

*DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association and used by professionals in the United States to diagnose mental health conditions. The manual not only affects decisions that doctors make but also what the insurance companies will cover. The DSM 4 is the recently retired manual. You can learn more about it on the DSM 4 page.

DSM 5 was just published in 2013.

NOTE: Tony Attwood, the current researcher of Aspergers Syndrome, does not agree with the elimination of Aspergers Syndrome from the manual.
Read more on the DSM 4 page, the DSM 5 page, and the ICD 10 page.

Autism Level 1, under the new DSM 5, is essentially the same as an Aspergers diagnosis.

I have two comments about the levels. First, the description of Social Communication for Level 1 does not make any mention of peer communication. In our case, Trio Man fooled our pediatrician because he communicated very well with adults, and our pediatrician never saw him interact with kids his own age. That makes me wonder if my son and preschoolers like him would get the Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis or not.

Second, since the Association specifies the severity levels anyway, why not make those three diagnoses with names, not numbers, within the Autism Spectrum Disorder category? For example, on the left below is how the Association treats Autism. On the right below is how I would write it--If I were a doctor on the Task Force! ;-)

New Severity Levels Under One Diagnosis

Autism Spectrum Disorder is the category and the diagnosis.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder with severity levels 1, 2, and 3

My Wish: Three Diagnoses Under the ASD Category

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) would be the category, much like Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD) was the category in the DSM 4. If I could have my way, the following would be the three diagnoses listed under ASD:

  • High-Functioning Autism [or Aspergers, if Tony Attwood approves--I always defer to him as the expert!]
    (This is the Association's severity level 1.)
  • Autism
    (This is the Association's severity level 2.)
  • Severe Autism
    (This is the Association's severity level 3.)

Other Pages About the DSM

Do I say "Aspergers" or "Autism"?

Do I continue to say "Aspergers"? or do I change to the one of the new DSM diagnoses? I guess that all depends to whom you're talking.

DSM 4 - DSM 5 Differences -- Where's Aspergers?

In the Association's own words, they have eliminated the diagnoses of Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, PDD-NOS, and Aspergers, saying that they are now part of Autism Spectrum Disorder. (You may also want to read the PDD-NOS and High-Functioning Autism pages.)

I was initially not happy with this, and I'm still not sure about it, but let's examine the old and the new DSM to see if things were eliminated or just moved around and renamed. Check out my side-by-side comparison.

Tighter Criteria for Social Communication

What is concerning is the tighter criteria for social communication/social interaction. The DSM 5 requires all three of the behaviors that characterize deficits; whereas, the DSM 4 lists one additional for a total of four and then requires two. Look at the side-by-side comparison on the Social Communication page.

Outline of Neurodevelopmental Disorders

When I saw how the new DSM 5 outlines Autism and ADHD, everything made more sense to me. (Notice that Aspergers and PDD-NOS have been eliminated.) I hope that reading the outline helps you, too. You may want to compare it to the recently retired DSM 4.

I am not a doctor, of course. I am just a mom who is sharing what has worked in her home. Please know that any information found on AspergersSyndromeParent.com is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose any disorder. Young Living's products are designed to improve nutrition; they are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or any disorder. However, scientific research has established a connection between nutrition and many disease conditions and disorders, including Aspergers, Autism, and ADHD. I share information with you so that you can consider whether it may work for your family. It is your responsibility to educate yourself and to address any health or medical needs that you may have with your healthcare provider. Please seek professional help when needed! And, yes, I may earn a commission on a link that you follow--not all links on the site but many of them. #MOMpreneur

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