Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Guidelines for Autism

The rates of autism have skyrocketed in recent years. In 1993, only one in 10,000 children was diagnosed with autism. Today, it is one in 100 kids. Autism is the fastest-growing disability in the United States. At least a million people have been diagnosed with autism and its related disorders, which are called Asperger Syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Some people claim that the increased numbers are the result of autism being over-diagnosed. Others claim that autism definitions have been broadened in order to give more people access to taxpayer-funded treatment and intervention services.

The standard medical reference work for Mental Disorders, including autism, is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and it's now being revised. The revisions are expected to significantly narrow the definition of autism, making it more difficult for new people to meet the new criteria. Tens of thousands of people rely on this important manual. The revisions are expected to change the way autism is diagnosed and treated, so some are welcoming the revision, and some are critical of it.

Early intervention efforts are helpful with the truly autistic child, but it's also true that hanging the autism label on a clumsy, lonely teenager can be really harmful. It's also a disservice to these kids when children with Asperger are grouped together with truly autistic kids.

It seems to be recognized that over-diagnosis has reached epidemic levels. It is important to differentiate between true victims of autism or Asperger syndrome and those who have been stuck with the Asperger label for merely being somewhat different from their peers. We are now finding that some people simply outgrow the autism-asperger symptoms and didn't need anything except to be allowed to grow up.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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