DSM5, Autism Criteria and Sensory Issues
The DSM5 (previously the DSM-V) is the soon to be published fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This new clinicians manual brings with it some long-awaited changes, and is welcomed by qualified professionals, in addition to its fair share of controversy. The addition of sensory issues to the new diagnostic criteria for Autism is welcomed by professionals who work with individuals with Autism.
How does our sensory system work and how does a dysregulated sensory system impact upon individuals with Autism? The sensory system is made up of 8 senses: vision, smell, taste, touch, hearing, balance, movement and referred emotion. These senses keep us informed about input coming from outside and inside our bodies. Together, all eight senses give us constant information and feedback about our enviroment. When our system is dysregulated, it creates chaos in our central nervous system.
Individuals with Autism have a combination of over or under aroused senses. Each individual has their own unique Sensory Profile. Only when their individual sensory profile is established can you begin to work with the child to ‘speed up’ or ‘slow down’ their senses as necessary.
Individuals with Autism rarely voice their sensory concerns and those concerns are most often seen in ‘melt-downs’. They are usually unaware that other people do not experience what they are experiencing.
Qualified and trained professionals working with individuals with Autism need to take into consideration the child’s sensory dysregulation and how their unique sensory profile impacts upon their functioning and behavior.
It is important to teach individudals with Autism to recognize the impact sensory input can have on behaviour, mood, tolerance levels, frustration, academic achievement and being successful in relationships.
The recommended program for individuals with Autism includes the following
1.The assessment of an individuals unique sensory profile ónly by a qualified professional
2. Teaching the individual to self-monitor the impact of sensory input in relation to all 8 senses
3. Providing children with the language skills to tell others others their sensory concerns
4. Development of a Sensory Coping Kit to help manage sensory overload and to take with them everywhere they go
For more information:
Sensory Perceptual Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome: Different Sensory Experiences – Different Perceptual Worlds (2003). Jessica Kingsley Publishing.
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