According to experts, the revised diagnostic definition for autism may significantly affect the proportion of individuals who qualify for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

Yale School of Medicine researchers released their findings at at a meeting of the Icelandic Medical Association.

The proposed changes to the diagnostic definition would be published in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), ” to be implemented in 2013.

“Given the potential implications of these findings for service eligibility, our findings offer important information for consideration by the task force finalizing DSM-5 diagnostic criteria,” said Yale Child Study Center (CSC) director Fred Volkmar, M.D., who conducted the study with CSC collegues.

In the study, researchers found that in a group of individuals without intellectual disabilities who were evaluated during the 1994 DSM-IV field trial, approximately half might not qualify for a diagnosis of autism under the proposed new definition.

Volkmar stressed that these preliminary findings relate only to the most cognitively able and may have less impact on diagnosis of more cognitively disabled people.

“Use of such labels, particularly in the United States, can have important implications for service,” he said. “Major changes in diagnosis also pose issues for comparing results across research studies.”

Volkmar and colleagues will publish full study results in the April print edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Source: Yale University