“The definition of autism in ICD-11 and the one in the DSM-5 are not identical, but they’re very, very close,” says Michael B. First, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and a member of the committee that drafted the mental and neurodevelopmental disorders chapter of the ICD. “So it’s not likely that there’ll be significant differences in who gets labeled.”
However, the ICD-11 diverges from the DSM-5 in significant ways.
Among the most popular features of the DSM-5 is its prominent treatment of sensory abnormalities — such as over- or undersensitivity to sound and touch — among people with autism. The definition of autism in the ICD-11, by contrast, makes no mention of sensory abnormalities.
“Sensory issues may well be near universal in autism,” says Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. “If true, we should count it as a core symptom of the umbrella category.”