Autism Guidelines Change: Decreased Diagnosis Less Help for Children


With the new guidelines being set out, the number of children being diagnosed with autism could be decreased drastically, this change would mean less help suggest some experts. Currently one-in-88 children are diagnosed with autism every year. The new guidelines could mean that as many as one-third would no longer be considered autistic. Some experts fear this means that those children who struggle with learning and behavioral problems will not be able to get the kind of help they need. These guidelines are being provided by the American Psychiatric Associations (APA), Diagnostic Statistical Manual Fifth edition (DSM-5).

Kristine M. Kulage, director of the Office of Scholarship and Research Development at Columbia Nursing conducted a study to determine what if any effect the new guidelines would have. What she found was a statistically significant decrease in ASD diagnosis with the new manual as compared to the older version. Kulage stated that the study raises concerns, most notably that medical providers would have previously diagnosed a child as having ASD, now with the new criteria that same child will no longer be considered autistic and therefore will not qualify for help.

Children who are diagnosed autistic receive aid from the state along with specialized care. In the cases where a child no longer meets the diagnosis for ASD that care and help will not be provided. Kulage is concerned that it will mean less treatment for some of “the most vulnerable kids”, children with developmental delays who won’t be receiving help any more. She goes on to say that in many cases the state requires that diagnosis before they will offer medical benefits, social services or educational support.

According to Red Orbit, children diagnosed with autism are highly reliant on routines and sensitive to changes in their environment. They are also intensely focused on interests that are not necessarily appropriate to the social context they are in. Because the range and spectrum of the disorder children with autism used to be classified in one of three categories, autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s spectrum, or pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), with the new criteria though the number of patients diagnosed with PDD-NOS will decline be 70 percent.

Red Orbit went on to say that Asperger’s will also see a decline; however the study did not show a statistically significant number for the decline in Asperger’s diagnosis. With the new criteria PDD-NOS and Asperger’s will no longer be subgroups of autism, rather patients who fall into either of these sub-groups would be considered a new subgroup of autism titled Social Communication Disorders (SCD), however it is important to note that patients who were not severe enough to meet the diagnosis of autism would not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of SCD.

The best prognosis for anyone with ASD is early detection and treatment. With the new guidelines, experts fear that the biggest change will be fewer children being diagnosed with autism and a decrease in the kind of help they will be able to get, making it less likely that they will live happy healthy lives.

By Rachel Woodruff

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