In the moments after the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria changes were announced, I devoured every article I could find online thinking, “Surely there is more to this.” Not wanting to jump to conclusions or be a fear-monger, I decided to read more.
There is no doubt that the number of people diagnosed “on the spectrum” has increased tremendously – astronomically – in recent years, and for that reason, my gut instinct was to give the APA and the contributing Yale School of Medicine researchers the benefit of the doubt for these changes, but after reading every document I can get my hands on, I can find no solid support for the proposed changes to the DSM-5.
Let’s review the facts:
- Autism diagnoses are increasing at a rate of 10-15% per anum, depending on location, an astonishing rate to say the least. In 1990, 6.2 of every 10,000 children born in the state were diagnosed with autism by the age of five, compared with 42.5 in 10,000 born in 2001, according to the study, published in the journal Epidemiology.
- In July of 2011, in a Scientific American article, autism was attributed to environmental factors, such as exposure to household chemicals, pesticides, etc.
- An April 2008 article in Science Daily attributed the increase in numbers to changes in diagnostic standards.
- In November 2011, US News and World Report indicated that there was a genetic link found to autism that increased risk of developing the condition.
PRESENTATION OF AUTISM
- Autism is presently diagnosed by behaviors and delays that present themselves before 3 years of age.
- There is no biological test for autism that can serve as a diagnosis.
- An accelerated growth of white matter within the brain between 6 and 9 months of age (often followed by stunted development at 12-24 months of age) leading to increased cranial size under 1 year of age is an indicator for autism.
- Formative differences and disorders of the brain stem have been consistently observed in the brains of autistic patients.
- In August 2009, breech birth presentations were deemed an indicator for potential ASD spectrum issues.
- The NAA attributes thimerasol and Mercury poisoning or exposure as a predictor/cause of autism.
IMPACT OF DSM-5 CHANGES
- Per Fred Volkmar, MD a researcher who contributed to the studies that prompted the proposed changes, PDD-NOS, Aspergers and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder would be eliminated from the DSM-5 altogether. Those patients would be lumped into a general autism category.
- In the process of reassigning diagnoses, around 50% of children presently diagnosed as autistic would no longer be considered autistic.
- As diagnoses change the result would be that around 75% of Aspergers patients would no longer be aspies or autistics, and could stand to lose their services and therapies presently covered by insurance companies; around 85% of those with PDD-NOS would be in the same situation. This is per Fred Volkmar, MD – confirmed in a recent live chat with Autism Speaks physicians.
Based on the research presented above, it is clear that we are nowhere closer to a definitive test for autism. There are clearly indicators and physical abnormalities present in the autistic population that should be helpful in those determinations. Until such time as a definitive test can be performed and causality can be determined, diagnostic standards that would reduce/eliminate needed therapies should not be considered.
If children and adults are presently operating under a misdiagnosis (and this is a big IF given biological indicators that run through all categories of ASD patients), then an alternative diagnosis need be made available that will allow those patients to continue receiving treatments and therapies – at least within a 10 year grace period until new grants, government programs and insurance standards can be adopted.
My petition, launched on Saturday, which now stands at more than 400 signatures. It is meant to catch the attention of those in power making decisions. Do not make a change that robs high-functioning autistics of their therapies, services and identities. If you feel that their diagnosis is incorrect, then back this assumption up with research, proof and diagnostics and come up with a solution and a label that fits.
For those who wish to speak out against these changes, I encourage you to visit
to sign the petition which will be forwarded to the APA, legislators and medical professionals for consideration.