Changes to Autism diagnostic definitions

OTARCThe fifth edition of the DSM—scheduled for publication May 2013—is introducing new definitions of Autism and related conditions.

Most notably are changes to the concepts of ‘Asperger’s Disorder’, ‘Pervasive Developmental Disorders’ and the ‘triad of symptoms’.

Dr Giacomo Vivanti, Research Fellow, will deliver a position paper that considers the changes in the diagnostic definition of autism as generally positive.

‘While the thrust of the changes are positive there are some concerns and it is important to address these to better inform the community how diagnostic definitions will be affected.’

‘The new DSM will narrow the criteria for Autism, so that some individuals who currently meet criteria for autism or related conditions might not longer be diagnosed as ‘autistic’ under the new criteria and, as a consequence, might longer be eligible for services,’ said Dr Vivanti.

The new DSM also introduces a new diagnostic label, ‘Social Communication Disorder’, which appears similar to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Some individuals who currently meet criteria for autism and related conditions might be categorised under this new label, for which no treatment guidelines or service eligibility policies are provided.

Individuals and families, health practitioners, educators and researchers have been worried, with numerous petitions and campaigns directed at preventing these changes.

‘However, we believe the changes in the diagnostic definition of autism are mostly positive, because they result from advances in our understanding of ASD,’ said Dr Vivanti.

Some of the changes proposed are based on research conducted at La Trobe by OTARC Director Associate Professor Cheryl Dissanayake and OTARC Advisory Committee Chair Professor Margot Prior.

‘For example the controversial elimination of the different subtypes of autism, including Asperger’s disorder, reflect the result of studies conducted by OTARC researchers indicating that the different subtypes are more similar than different.’

The implications of these proposed changes clinical practice, research and the autism community at large will be discussed by Dr Vivanti and a panel of expert clinicians, researchers, and family members at the public forum.

Media Opportunity/Event Details

What: Free public lecture on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders changes
When: Wednesday 24 October, 5.30pm—7pm
Where: Western Lecture Theatre 1, La Trobe Univeristy Melbourne Campus

For an interview with Dr Vivanti contact Giacomo on or Wojciech Nadachowski at or 0421 961 692


For more information please contact:

Mark Pearce, T:
03 9479 5246 M: 0423 783 756 E: