The pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) have traditionally been viewed as categorical diagnoses. With a categorical or dichotomous scheme, disorders are either present or absent. For example, the DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10 list specific criteria for each disorder that must be met to receive a diagnostic classification. Similarly, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) specify categories of special education disability. Both are categorical rather than dimensional systems of classification (e.g., a child meets or does not meet criteria) and both focus on a description of behavior rather than function.
We now question whether autism should be conceptualized as a distinct clinical entity or as a continuum of severity. For example, children with the same diagnostic classification are likely to be heterogeneous and many childhood disorders, including autism, fall along a continuum in the general population. Categorical classification fails to account for these quantitative differences between children with the same core symptoms. In fact, there is a growing consensus among professionals who work with children with PDD that the differences between the higher functioning subtypes are not particularly useful in terms of either intervention or outcome and that autism is more appropriately conceptualized as a spectrum condition rather than an “all-or-nothing” diagnostic entity. We also recognize that traits similar to those observed in PDD are not restricted to children with a clinical diagnosis. This is especially important because even mild degrees of autistic symptomatology can have an adverse effect on a child’s adaptive and school functioning. Thus, while categories are much easier to conceptualize, they tend to be of minimal use in actual practice.
This dimensional perspective is reflected in the American Psychiatric Association’s recently released draft diagnostic criteria for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Specifically, the proposal for a new category of “autism spectrum disorder,” which incorporates the current diagnoses of autistic disorder (autism), Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). This single “spectrum disorder” better describes our current understanding about the clinical presentation and course of the pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), and should facilitate more effective identification and treatment going forward.
Wilkinson, L. A. (2010). A best practice guide to assessment and intervention for autism and Asperger syndrome in schools. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
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- APA School Psychology Book Series - Autism in Schools: Evidence-Based Assessment & Intervention
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- College & University Faculty: New Autism Guide
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Best Practice Books
- Attwood, T. (2006). The complete guide to Asperger’s syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
- Baker, J. (2008). No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out-Of-Control Behavior. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
- Baron-Cohen, S. (2008). Autism and Asperger syndrome: The facts. New York: Oxford.
- Bashe, P. R., & Kirby, B. L. (2005). The OASIS guide to Asperger syndrome: Advice, support, insight, and inspiration. New York: Crown Publishing.
- Bellini, S. (2006). Building Social Relationships: A Systematic Approach to Teaching Social Interaction Skills to Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Social Difficulties. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.
- Gabler, Martha (2014). Behavior Basics: A Primer for Autism Parents [Kindle Edition]. TAGteach International.
- Gaus, V. L. (2007). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adult Asperger syndrome. New York: Guilford.
- Grandin, T., & Moore, D. (2015). The Loving Push: How Parents and Professionals can Help Spectrum Kids Become Successful Adults. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
- Hammer, C. (2016). Autism Parenting: Practical Strategies for a Positive School Experience: Over 300 tips for parents to enhance their child's school success. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
- Klin, A., Volkmar, F. R. & Sparrow, S. S. (Eds.). (2000). Asperger’s syndrome. New York: The Guilford Press.
- Koegel, R. L., & Koegel, L. K. (2006). Pivotal response treatments for autism: Communication, social, and academic development. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.
- National Research Council (2001). Educating children with autism. Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism. C. Lord & J. P. McGee (Eds). Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
- Ozonoff, S., Dawson, G., & McPartland, J. (2002). A parent’s guide to Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism: How to meet the challenges and help your child to thrive. New York: Guilford Press.
- Stone, W. L. (2006). Does my child have autism? A parent’s guide to early detection and intervention in autism spectrum disorders. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
- Twachtman-Cullen, D., & Twachtman-Bassett, J. (2011). The IEP from A to Z: How to create meaningful and measurable goals and objectives. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
- Twachtman-Cullen, D., & Twachtman-Reilly, J. (2003). How Well Does Your Child's IEP Measure Up? Quality Indicators for Effective Service Delivery. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
- Volkmar, F. R., Paul, R., Klin, A., & Cohen, D. (Eds.) (2005). Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders (3rd. ed.) (Vols. 1 & 2). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
- Wilkinson, L. A. (2010). A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
- Wilkinson, L.A. (Ed.). (2014). Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Wilkinson, L. A. (2015). Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
- Wilkinson, L. A. (2017). A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd edition). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
- Wilmshurst, L. & Brue, A. (2010). The complete guide to special education: Expert advice on evaluations, IEPs, and helping kids succeed (Second Edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Best Practice Resources
- American Psychiatric Association
- Autism Society of America
- Autism Speaks
- Best Practice Autism
- Cambridge University, Autism Research Centre
- Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD)
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- First Signs
- Indiana University, Indiana Resource Center for Autism
- Living Autism
- National Autism Center
- National Autistic Society
- National Institute of Student Health and Human Development Autism
- National Institute of Student Health and Human Development Autism
- National Institutes of Health Autism Research Network
- National Professional Developmental Center for Autism
- National Research Council
- Nova Southeastern University, Mailman Segal Institute
- Organization for Autism Research
- Parent Coaching for Autism
- Research Autism
- University of California, M.I.N.D. Institute
- University of Kansas, Kansas Institute for Positive Behavior Support
- University of Michigan, Autism and Communication Disorders Center
- University of North Carolina, Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication
- Yale Student Study Center Developmental Disabilities Clinic