DSM-5 criteria 'at odds' with early autism diagnosis

The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for autism spectrum disorder might significantly affect the diagnosis of ASD in very young children, a retrospective analysis has shown.

Only 35% of a sample of children diagnosed with ASD before age 3 based on DSM-IV criteria retained the diagnosis when DSM-5 criteria were applied.

"The strict nature of the criteria in a population whose symptomatology may be emerging is at odds with an early diagnosis model," said Dr. Lisa H. Shulman, director of the Rehabilitation, Evaluation and Learning for Autistic Infants and Toddlers program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.

"Clearly, prospective studies on the impact of DSM-5 on early diagnosis are needed," she said at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS).

Studies of the impact of the new criteria on diagnosis of ASD have focused on school-age children. Dr. Shulman and her coinvestigators looked at younger children, examining all the children who had been diagnosed with ASD by 3 years of age based on a multidisciplinary evaluation at their center during 2003-2010. Diagnoses were based on DSM-IV criteria. Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) scores also were examined, however, and cognitive testing was completed in some of the children.

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