Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Thesis (UNI Access Only)


Autism spectrum disorders in children--Classification; Autism spectrum disorders in children--Classification--Public opinion; Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed.;


Children diagnosed with Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) share overlapping diagnostic criteria. As a result, there has been an enduring debate regarding the appropriateness of the current categorical classification system used to diagnose this group of disorders, commonly referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Ongoing research examining the boundaries of the disorders comprising the spectrum has yielded inconsistent findings in symptom differences; therefore, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) changed diagnostic criteria in the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Revisions included dropping all subcategories of ASD and including one dimensional category that is all encompassing. Thus, the aim of the current exploratory pilot study was to study attitudes on these changes for diagnostic criteria of ASD in three groups of participants in the state of Iowa: parents of children with ASD, school professionals, and mental health professionals/ trainees. The 262 participants completed an author-generated questionnaire to assess attitudes toward changes and reasons for these attitudes. The parent group had the most positive perceptions of DSM-IV-TR criteria and the most negative perceptions of the new criteria in DSM-5. School professionals were the most unaware of the new DSM and the ASD changes. Mental health professionals/ trainees were the most likely to see the diagnostic criteria changes as positive. APA could take several steps to change perceptions such as involving parents more in future research, providing more trainings specifically targeting parent groups and school professionals, and involving outpatient clinicians to participate in on-going research. In addition, APA should continually update their website with any current research done for future changes to the DSM. The more APA can educate consumers, the more likely perceptions will improve.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Helen C. Harton

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vii, 131 pages)



File Format


Off-Campus Download