It can be confusing to make sense of the various terms used to describe autism. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association and serves as the primary manual used by clinicians in the U.S., Australia, and many other countries to provide the formal criteria for various diagnoses, including autism.
The Fourth Edition of the DSM issued in 1992, articulates a list of Pervasive Developmental Disorders that are considered “autism spectrum disorders” (ASD). These include autistic disorder (also known as “classic autism”), Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS, also known as “atypical autism”).
Under the latest DSM-5, rolled out in 2013, there is just one umbrella term, autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There were also some changes to streamline the diagnostic criteria.
Some people still use the DSM-4 terms — like Asperger’s — to describe themselves or their children, while some people might use terms like ASD, autism, and Asperger’s interchangeably.
To learn more about the changes brought about by the DSM-5, please visit the Raising Children Network website.