New Autism Definition Could Dramatically Alter Diagnoses


Millions of parents and caregivers are talking about proposed changes in the definition of autism. One top expert said the revisions could "make the autism epidemic go away."

The proposed change, under review by a panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, could sharply reduce the ever-increasing rate at which autism is diagnosed. The revisions would not change the diagnosis of children already born with the problem, but could vastly narrow the set of problems currently linked to the autism spectrum.

Rates of autism and disorders such as Asperger syndrome have skyrocketed since the 1980s, to rates as high as one in 100 children.

According to The New York Times, "disagreement about the effect of the new definition will almost certainly increase scrutiny of the finer points of the psychiatric association's changes."

The revisions could be final by this December, according to Dr. David Kupfer of the University of Pittsburgh, chairman of the task force making the revisions.

Currentlly, at least a million children and adults have a formal diagnosis of autism or a related disorder. The diagnoses trigger services to help offset the disorders' disabling effects.