New Autism Definition May Exclude Many

New Autism Definition May Exclude Many

Proposed changes to the definition of autism, currently under review by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, are expected to significantly reduce the soaring rate of autism diagnoses. The panel is completing work on the 5th edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or “The DSM.”

Cases of of autism and related disorders such as Asperger syndrome or “pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified” (PDD-NOS) have skyrocketed since the early 1980s, and many researchers believe the numbers are inflated due to vague criteria. The proposed change would consolidate all three diagnoses under one category, autism spectrum disorder, removing Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS from the manual.

Under the current criteria, one can qualify for the diagnosis by exhibiting six or more of 12 behaviors. Under the proposed criteria, the patient would have to exhibit deficits on a much narrower menu: three deficits in social interaction and communication and at least two repetitive behaviors.

“We need to carefully monitor the impact of these diagnostic changes on access to services and ensure that no one is being denied the services they need,”  Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, told  The New York Times. “Some treatments and services are driven solely by a person’s diagnosis, while other services may depend on other criteria such as age, IQ level or medical history.”

Physician’s Weekly wants to know… What do you think about changing the definition of autism? What benefits and/or pitfalls do you predict?

1 Comment

  1. Great! About time. Now maybe school psychologist’s who screen small kids for the school systems under the IDEA 2004 Federal Laws will not make as many mistakes when using the new DSM “Guidelines”. There are so many 3-4-5 year old children placed in ASD classrooms who are given the “educational” label of ASD even though Neuro evals & developmental evals have shown them to not be on the spectrum! Schools get extra funds when kids are labeled ASD and it takes away federal funds for the kids who really are on the spectrum and need the placement.

    So many people do not understand that school psych’s can and do label 3-4-5 years old with an Educational” ASD. They did this to my 3 year old who is delayed in some areas and exceptional in other areas, such as reading at age 3.
    Google educational autism classification, and the broadness of the classification.You will be left scratching your head.
    People think parents go looking for these labels for their kids who lack or lag in certain areas. Many times a parent just attends a Free community screening and ends up getting a referral to the local school system. Who than tests the 3-4-5 year old and tells the poor parent that their kids shows signs of having ASD. The parents are left with conflicting feelings and attend IEP meetings in which the parents are sometimes unprepared for and their 3 year olds end up in classrooms with very low and even non verbal autistic children from whom they learn to mimic bad behavior.
    In the meantime you have parents who have true clinical diagnosis from various qualified medical professionals who are experts in serious neurological disorders being turned away from schools services because school psych’s do not believe these children need IEP”s to function in the educational setting.


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