Defining Autism…Again

In early April, we discussed the planned revision of the medical definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in DSM V.  The proposed definition of Autism, which would eliminate Asperger Syndrome and “pervasive developmental disorder,” was criticized when researchers at Yale presented evidence that about half of the people who currently have a diagnosis on the higher end of the Autism Spectrum would no longer qualify under the new definition. 

Dr. David Kupfer, chairmen of the taskforce making revisions discussed these changes at The American Psychiatric Association (APA) annual meeting in Philadelphia last week.  Dr. Kupfer noted that they have been receiving many comments which are all being reviewed with the working groups.  Researchers presented data at this annual meeting from an unpublished study of some 300 children discovering that the proposed definition would exclude very few that currently have a diagnosis of Autism or a related disorder.  However, other published studies report findings which support the initial Yale estimate, and there are other studies in process which indicate a reduction of children and adults who would qualify under the new criteria. 

Why is all this important? Just consider the hundreds and hundreds of children in Pennsylvania alone who have received state funded services because they qualified for the diagnosis for autism.  Most of those children are now able to function in a less restrictive environment because they received intensive intervention services at a very young age.  Where would they be without such services if their parents cannot afford to pay? 

What can you do? 

The final comment period to the APA is May 2nd– June 15th 2012.  You can express your thoughts by calling 888-357-7924 or e-mail apa@psych.org.

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