The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is used by doctors who diagnose learning differences like dyslexia, a developmental reading disorder. In the spring of 2013, the 5th edition of the DSM will be published. Those of us who work with dyslexic children are concerned about proposed changes in this new edition. While it is not definite, the proposal is to omit the term “dyslexia” from the list of learning disorders.
Historically, the learning disorders listed in the DSM are used by educators to decide what services a student should receive. If a child is diagnosed as dyslexic by a doctor according to the DSM, then a school system can use that diagnosis to create an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that addresses the specific needs of the student. Additionally, the DSM can be used to determine what learning disorders warrant further research. Without the research we won’t be able to learn exactly what causes a specific problem and how best to treat it.
Omitting the term dyslexia does not align with current laws. IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and federal special education regulations explicitly name dyslexia as a learning disability that is eligible to receive services. The impact of omitting it from the DSM is that a child with dyslexia may not be diagnosed with it!
For a more thorough discussion of the possible effects of omitting dyslexia from the DSM-5, see Dyslexia and the DSM-5 at LDOnline.org.
Personally, I hope they do not leave out the term dyslexia. It may mean that children who are dyslexic might not be able to receive the appropriate services to remediate their reading difficulties. We should keep our eyes open to find out what the final decision is regarding DSM-5, which is due out in May 2013.