A new definition of autism would eliminate high-functioning individuals from the autism spectrum.
(Image Source: Wikimedia Commons ) BY STACEY WELSH ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS A new definition of Autism would make it harder for people with less severe symptoms to be diagnosed. The American Psychiatric Association appointed an expert panel to reassess the definition of autism -- and that panel has released a proposed change. The New York Times reports. “The proposed change would consolidate all three diagnoses under one category, autism spectrum disorder, eliminating Asberger syndrome and ‘pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified’ from the manual.” Because of these changes fewer people will be able to qualify for state-funded services to offset the disorder’s physical, learning and social effects. WNCT talked to a family with three daughters diagnosed with autism. Although the girls are high-functioning, their parents say they still benefit from treatment. “Between speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy, my kids can talk and walk.” But some are supportive of the change. ABC News reports many doctors say the new definition would help stop over-diagnosis. There’s no blood test or brain scan for autism, so doctors look at physical behavior and examine a child through asking questions. DOCTOR RICHARD BESSER: “We’re in a situation where you can have a child who’s seen in California and they say, ‘Yes, this is autism.’ …They’re seen in Ohio and they say, ‘No, it’s not autism.’ So, they’re trying to improve the definition and make it more standard.” A writer for TIME understands tending to children with autism is expensive for places like school districts, and says she hopes that those monetary concerns aren’t fueling the possible change. “ … what [the definition] most definitely will not do is resolve or even meaningfully impact the question that obsesses so many … ‘where to draw the line between unusual and abnormal,’ as Benedict Carey of the New York Times put it … the definitions are valuable only if they meet one very basic, if somewhat pedestrian, criterion: getting kids who need help the best help that exists.” The New York Times reports at least a million children and adults have autism or a related disorder. If approved, the new definition is slated to be published in a new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in May 2013.