BREAKING NEWS & CALL TO ACTION: DSM-5 Proposed Revisions Remove the Term Dyslexia

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By Carolyn D. Cowen & Karen Dakin

Breaking News LogoEvery so often, an issue merits stopping whatever you are doing, paying attention, and, if you are concerned, taking action. This is one of those issues: The proposed revisions for the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) no longer include dyslexia.

What is DSM-5 and why is it important?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and includes codes for all mental health disorders currently recognized. Release of the manual’s final, approved fifth edition (DSM-5) is anticipated May 2013.

What are the proposed revision changes?

Quoting from a recent DSM-5 update:

Stand by for IDA’s official position statement on “DSM-5 and dyslexia” and for opportunities to participate in a petition campaign.

“Learning Disorder has been changed to Specific Learning Disorder and the previous types of Learning Disorder (Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Disorder of Written Expression) no longer are being recommended. The type of Learning Disorder will instead be specified as noted in the diagnosis.” (Emphasis added.)

For complete changes in diagnostic criteria and other proposed revisions, click here. For details about the diagnostic process and criteria for Specific Learning Disorder, click here.

What are the concerns?

Many members of the International Dyslexia Association and dyslexia communities were heartened by inclusion of the term dyslexia in an earlier round of proposed DSM-5 revisions (click here to see previous draft revisions).

However, many view this latest round of revisions—which now omit the term dyslexia—as a significant step backward and worry that this omission will (a) perpetuate lack of recognition and understanding of dyslexia and (b) contribute to delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Some also see a chasm between current proposed DSM-5 revisions and growing dyslexia legislation and policies (e.g., see eXaminer articles, Dyslexia Legislation Passes in Ohio and Dyslexia Comes to Congress: A Call to Action).

If you share these concerns, you have an opportunity to submit comments on the draft DSM-5. The APA has provided eXaminer readers and IDA members with a direct email address for making comments— The deadline for comments is June 15. This commenting period marks the third and final time DSM-5 draft criteria will be available for feedback. (For more information, click here and here.)

Any good news?

Yes. Proposed revisions include this language:

“The diagnostic criteria do not depend upon comparisons with overall IQ and are consistent with the change in the USA’s reauthorized IDEA regulations (2004), which state that: ‘the criteria adopted by the State must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10).’” (Click here for more detail about DSM-5 revision rationale.)

Call to action:

Very likely, the final language in DSM-5 will shape the diagnostic and treatment landscape for children and adults with dyslexia for generations to come. If you want to have a voice, submit your comments to before June 15. Please also forward this information to other parties and stakeholders who may wish to comment. If you are concerned, now is the time to act!

Watch future issues of the eXaminer for updates and in-depth analysis on proposed DSM-5 revisions. Not a subscriber? Click here to subscribe for free.

Relevant Link: IDA’s Definition of Dyslexia

Carolyn D. Cowen, Ed.M.: Social-Media Editor & Strategist, The eXaminer; Executive Director, Carroll School Center for Innovative Education

Karen E. Dakin, M.Ed.: Editor, The eXaminer; Secretary, the International Dyslexia Association Board of Directors

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