The autism community has been buzzing in the past week with the news that the American Psychiatric Association’s new definition of autism would eliminate the categories of Asperger syndrome and “pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified,” (PDD-NOS) in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), due out in 2013.
When the APA first proposed tightening up the clinical definition of the autism diagnosis, even groups that represent people with Asperger syndrome (considered a high-functioning form of the disorder) were supportive.
“Seeing as no discernible line in the sand could be drawn that truly separated Asperger Syndrome from autism (though the clinical world tried), the merger made theoretical sense,” wrote Michael John Carley, executive director of The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) in an email to supporters last week.
“Furthermore, any spectrum diagnosis, in essence, served us well enough as it placed our behavioral differences within the context of wiring, and not through the judgmental lens of interpreted character deficits.” In other words, the diagnosis affirms that autism is a neuroligical issue, not a case of bad or weird behavior.
But a new study has made it clear that this is not a change in name only. According to the study, some 75 percent of people with Asperger syndrome and 85 percent of those with pervasive development disorder would no longer be considered to have autism under the new definition.
Presto! With just a change in language the autism epidemic is over.
Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine and an author of the recent analysis put it this way: “We would nip it in the bud.”
And when you end an epidemic certain government institutions save a whole lot of money. Kids who no longer qualify for a diagnosis will have a much harder time getting services they need to learn and function in the community.
Kids who currently have the diagnosis of AS and PDD have it because they have struggled to the point where their parents had them tested. These aren’t just kids who are a “little different.” What parent actually wants to go through the hell that is special education and autism? You’d think it was some kind of country club that people are dying to get into.
Believe me, if taking away the diagnosis actually took away the issues, parents would be the first ones in line asking for the change.
This is potentially a dangerous change that will leave thousands and thousands of kids to flounder – socially, academically and emotionally. All with a few keystrokes. That is scary.