Welcome to Pluto

Pluto So I’m taking Abnormal Psychology this semester, and this week we learned about diagnosis and the DSM-V, which did away with diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD-NOS, and High Functioning Autism in favor of a single Autism Spectrum Disorder, with a system of quantifying a range of symptomology.

My lecturer guessed that personality disorders would come next, with others to follow. As she went on to discuss the issues of standardizing the language of diagnosis, I wondered to myself why they would start with Autism, a group that often features literalism and seeks semantic consistency. Maybe it’s like New York, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.

I have ultimately come to appreciate what they are trying to do. If you think of a map of the world, we previously had the disorders like continents you might be on. But what if you’re in Asia minor Central America, or Greenland (which my son asked why it isn’t considered a continent.) How is Europe its own continent, if you think about it?

What the new ASD diagnosis tries to accomplish is set up something like a coordinate system of the primary symptoms:

1. Social communication and social interaction deficits

2. Patterns of restricted or repetitive behavior/interests

Other conditions:

– Present from early childhood

– Impairment of function (social, occupational)

– Not better explained by intellectual disability or global developmental delay.

I think what a lot of self-proclaimed “Aspies” have been unhappy with in the category collapse (aside from the fact that it’s a change) is that autism has been highly associated with intellectual disability. The new diagnosis places intellectual disability under specifiers that may co-occur with ASD, but is not an integral or expected symptom. There is no need to specify high functioning, because it is now assumed that ASD occurs alongside normal intellectual function.

So like Pluto, our disorders are no longer what we grew up thinking they were. But as with the demotion of Pluto, there should be an increase in general understanding of what it means to be a planet, and what the relative properties of bodies in our solar system are.

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