Redefining Autism Might Prevent Some From Help

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The diagnosis for autism is about to undergo a big change, and it could mean the loss of certain services for some children.

The changes come as the American Psychiatric Association re-works its fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the book most medical professionals turn to for diagnosing mental disorders.

As the parent of a child with autism, Dawn Brasch understands the challenges posed by such changes.

“My son was diagnosed with autism when he was 18-months-old,” she said.

Brasch and other parents in the autism community are particularly concerned about the upcoming changes to the way the disorder is diagnosed. Right now, it’s estimated 1 in 110 children have an autism spectrum disorder. That spectrum ranges from the most severe forms of autism to a high functioning form known as Asperger’s Syndrome.

Under the changes, Asperger’s would no longer exist. So depending on the severity, you would either have autism or you wouldn’t. The new diagnosis would essentially narrow the definition and criteria of autism.

Pat Pulice, the autism services director at the Fraser Child and Family Center, said the changes look worrisome.

“What you label it or call it won’t take away the fact that these people need help,” she said.

The biggest impact may be felt in the services provided to those with Asperger’s, especially in schools where kids get help with social interaction. Those services may no longer be available for a child who no longer falls under the autism criteria.

“They can’t function without the supports,” Brasch said.

It will be months before the final diagnosis guidelines are released; the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders isn’t expected until 2013.

“We are going to have to think outside the box and work together to look at how all this is going to fit together,” Pulice said.

According to Pulice, the real push for these changes is for new research. The idea is this: by defining a more specific category of autism, you can better suggest treatment and get funding for research.

  • Sharon Barish

    The push for change probably comes from the insurance industry because they don’t want to pay for the services.

    • Jason

      @ Sharon ,Its called OBAMACARE, who do you think drafted and wrote the current heathcare mandate. Insurance companies. Rationing of heathcare has already starting.

  • getaclue

    yeah…push yer vaccines on very young children and poison them,then…sorry…can’t help ya…tyrants!

    • MAJ

      I am a Sr. Citizen and never went to school with anyone who had autism. I would blame it on the vaccines. I question how much autism costs our education system. Many children with it are assigned their own paras. There is one teacher trying to teach 25 children plus have the autistic child with his para in the room. I find it very unfair to the 25 when their ratio is 25 to 1. If a student is struggling with an assignment he does not understand he is pretty much lost. A teacher can only spread his/herself so thin.

  • Sean Kelly

    Research has conclusively shown that vaccines do not cause autism. When I was a student years ago, the diagnostic criteria for a classification of autism was quite strict. Over time some people softened the diagnostic criteria so much that large numbers of children were classified as autistic. This had to end.. The APA is moving to enforce the strict diagnostic criteria that existed 40 years ago so that we can better study autism and its causes.

    • Anita Newhouse

      In reality, history cannot repeat, only the lens through which we view time and the response we formulate to it could make it seem so. When so many individuals have proven functional deficits and we ‘ve discovered how to interpret and treat these deficits to improve outcomes in the real world, in real time, why would we take that away? Where, then, is the actual ‘sickness’?

  • Wayne Rohde

    What many have missed is that the APA thinks autism is a mental health issue. It is not. There are so many medical issues connected to autism. So why does APA care? Because they just want to write scripts for meds to manage the kids instead of trying to find out what is causing autism.

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