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Revised Autism Diagnostic Guidelines Have Some Experts Concerned

Posted by The Vigilant Mom on January 26, 2012

Revised Autism Diagnostic Guidelines Have Some Experts Concerned

In May of 2013, the American Psychiatric Association is going to release a revised set of guidelines for how they choose to diagnose a person with autism spectrum disorder. But this decision has many experts thinking that these changes are a bad idea.

According to Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and Fox News contributor, it doesn’t make sense not to have separate disorders when it comes to the autistic “arena.” However, right now, that is exactly what the association is proposing — one name for all of the ‘autism-like’ disorders. This would include the repetitive behavior that is commonly linked to autism spectrum disorder, Aspberger’s and pervasive development disorder.

“They are monkeying with the definition of how severe symptoms must be to fit into a new and broad category called autism spectrum disorder, rather than autism and Aspberger’s, et cetera. I don’t understand how a professional association can meet every few years and declare that some disorders are not in existence anymore and invent new ones to replace them,” Ablow said.

As for the association’s choice to take on stricter standards when diagnosing autism disorders, it is believed that it stems from the ongoing debate about how to define these disorders so that they can put their arms around the right people, while at the same time getting insurance company reimbursements. Ablow doesn’t want the diagnostic manual changed this early. In fact, he believes that under new guidelines, children that had already been diagnosed with autism may end up getting a different diagnosis or a reclassification, which could be costly to both the kids and their parents.

“If we don’t loosen it a little bit, I suspect that some of these high-functioning kids may actually get shifted into a different diagnosis,” adds Dr. Thomas Frazier, who treats children with autism at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. “So, for example, they might move to a new diagnosis called social communication disorder.”

He also pointed out that the potential reclassification could change the assistance these children are getting at school.

“Your educational classification really indicates what kind of services and accommodations you’re going to get at school,” he said. “And autism is one of the highest educational classifications; so many people with autism get a significant amount of services through their school. I think the worry by a lot of parents is that ‘if my child loses that classification, what happens?’ And we don’t know what’s going to happen yet.”

Whatever does happen, these new guidelines could make things much more difficult for parents of autistic children in terms of finding them the right medical treatments and educational assistance. Some children may very well be left out in the cold if their symptoms aren’t severe enough for the right diagnosis.

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