Revised Austim Criteria Has Parents and Experts Worried
Welcome back to The Well Mind, the blog bringing you the most interesting new developments in the world of mental health.
This week: May 2013, the release date for the American Psychiatric Association's new diagnostic guide, is fast approaching - and not everyone is happy about that. In fact, many parents and experts are vocally concerned about the changes it will bring. Since 1980, we've seen the definition of autism change drastically to include high-functioning Asperger's syndrome and with that change, there's been an amazing spike in individuals being considered autistic. Now, the association is proposing an entirely new way of defining autism.
Let's get to it.
Every generation seems to have thier own most prevalent psychiatric condition - a word which describes a set of problem behaviors.
In illustration, though it was a common condition in the 1900's, individuals are rarely diagnosed with "Hysteria" anymore. Today, with our superior understanding, we have better, more precise ways to describe the problems of those people that would simply have been considered "Hysterical" a hundred years ago.
Moving forward in time, if the the 1990's was the time of ADHD, 2000 may be considered the time of Asperger's type autism syndrome. While the rate of individuals considered autistic is still considerably lower than those described by ADHD - from roughly 1 in 100 with autism, to 1 in 10 with ADHD - the growth rate of autism blows ADHD's growth rate away.
Why is this?
While the exact cause of that jump is unknown, (as we discussed 2 weeks ago) certainly an expanding definition has played some significant part. The term "autism" which once applied to those with severe social and mental disabilities only, now decribes high-functioning people with above average intelligence and skills. Now, things will be changing again.
Soon, as psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow explained, the new diagnostic guide, the DSM-V, will bring a new definition for autism.
Said Ablow, “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 'Asperger’s', et cetera."
The different classifications for autism willl be removed. There will be no more Asperger's syndrome, instead all autistic people will have 'Autism Spectrum Disorder". This new definition will place more emphasis on preservative and repetitive behaviors - and many that were previously classified with a type of autisim will no longer meet the criteria.
As you may expect, this has important an worrying implication for the parents of these children.
Says autism expert, Dr. Thomas Frazier, "I suspect that some of these high-functioning kids may actually either get shifted into a different diagnosis... So, for example, they might move to a new diagnosis called 'social communication disorder'. Your educational classification really indicates what kind of services and accommodations you're going to get at school...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?’ ...we don’t know what’s going to happen yet."
With so many unknowns still surrounding autism, it's difficult to predict whether this new definition will actually prove more accurate - or more helpful - for those described by it.
Photo Credit: colemama