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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
The guide doctors use to diagnose people with mental disorders is being re-written for the first time in more than two decades.
Once it's published, revisions to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Manual will affect millions.
One major change is the removal of the term "Asperger's disorder" or "Asperger's syndrome".
The changes will affect how doctors define the various ranges of autism. People will no longer be diagnosed with Asperger's; every form of autism will now be diagnosed as "autism spectrum disorder".
This new category will include people with high-functioning autism, who are only socially impaired, along with more severe cases of autism, causing cognitive delays.
The Treatment and Learning Center for Children with Autism in Tyler uses applied behavioral analysis or "ABA" to teach children with autism how to function with their disorder.
A psychologist at the center says the services provided for people with autism are expensive.
Some believe the new manual will make it harder for a person with Asperger's to be diagnosed with "autism spectrum disorder".
"Most of us in the field feel like it will be more difficult for a child to get the diagnosis because children with autism are very unique … so to restrict certain behaviors that are common in some children with autism, but not other children with autism, will narrow and prevent necessary treatment for children," says Alison Sterken, a psychologist at the Treatment and Learning Center for Children with Autism.
Without an official "autism spectrum disorder" diagnosis, people may not be able to get the services they need, like applied behavioral analysis.
"It's critical because a child with autism who does not get ABA will very likely never be able to be on his own or her own, will not be able to function in society, will not be able to hold a job and will end up in a group home or an institution. It is that critical," Sterken says.
The Psychiatric Association's board of trustees, who approved the changes to the manual, says the revision will not affect education services for people with Asperger's.
Sterken says insurance companies and schools only approve special services based on a child's official diagnosis.
She says some children might have to be re-evaluated under the new diagnosis terms.
Changes to the manual were approved Saturday in Washington, D.C., by the Psychiatric Association's board of trustees.
The updated version of the diagnosis guide will be given to psychiatrists this coming May.
The guide defines what types of symptoms doctors recognize as mental disorders and shapes what kind of treatment patients will receive.