Autism and the Cognitive Processing Triad: A Case for Revising the Criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual

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Journal Article
Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 2012, 25 (3), pp. 141 - 148
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TOPIC: The next iteration of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is due for release in May 2013. The current diagnostic criteria for autism are based on a behavioral triad of impairment, which has been helpful for diagnosis and identifying the need for intervention, but is not useful with regard to developing interventions. Revised diagnostic criteria are needed to better inform research and therapeutic intervention. PURPOSE: This article examines the research underpinning the behavioral triad of impairment to consider alternative explanations and a more useful framing for diagnosis and intervention. SOURCES: Contemporary research and literature on autism were used in this study. CONCLUSIONS: It is proposed that the cognitive processing triad of impaired abstraction, impaired theory of mind, and impaired linguistic processing become the triad of impairment for autism in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These are investigable at the diagnostic level and can usefully inform intervention. Further, in addressing the debate on whether restrictive and repetitive behavior should remain central to diagnosis or be replaced by a deficit in imagination, the authors argue that both behavioral manifestations are underpinned by impaired abstraction. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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