A new definition of autism currently under review by a panel of experts appointed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) would not only severely decrease the rate at which the disorder is diagnosed, but would also make it much harder for autism spectrum disorder patients to receive the health, social and educational services currently provided to them, according to a new analysis.

As The New York Times reports, the updated definition is part of APA’s work to revise the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

“Most experts expect that the new manual will narrow the criteria for autism; the question is how sharply. The results of the new analysis are preliminary, but they offer the most drastic estimate of how tightening the criteria for autism could affect the rate of diagnosis. For years, many experts have privately contended that the vagueness of the current criteria for autism and related disorders like Asperger syndrome was contributing to the increase in the rate of diagnoses — which has ballooned to one child in 100, according to some estimates.”

Some contend the definition will cut off those who are on the high-functioning side of the autism spectrum, such as those with Asperger’s syndrome, from the help and services they need.

For the analysis, researchers used data from a 1993 study and focused on 372 children and adults “who were among the highest functioning and found that overall, only 45 percent of them would qualify for the proposed autism spectrum diagnosis now under review.”

Read the rest of The New York Times article

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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