Saturday, January 21st, 2012
A debate among medical professionals over how to define autism has spilled over into the public domain, stirring anger and fear among many parents and advocates of those with the neurological disorder, even as some argue that the diagnosis has been too loosely applied.
Personally, I’m very disappointed that the issue of adjusting the definition of Autism in the as-yet-to-be-completed DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) is first generating controversy about protecting costs and other basic questions concerning eligibility. Changes to the Autism Spectrum Diagnosis have been debated now for a few years and we’re first hearing there’s not even consensus about how many people currently meeting the criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder would still meet them and how many folks would lose eligibility for services? To hear that the scientific community is still in seeming disarray about fundamental issues such as these seems ridiculous and gives me way less faith in the process already undertaken.
â€œWe have to make sure not everybody who is a little odd gets a diagnosis of autism or Asperger disorder,â€ said Dr. David J. Kupfer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and chairman of the task force making the revisions, which are still subject to change. â€œIt involves a use of treatment resources. It becomes a cost issue.â€
Ugh. I’m sorry, but the chairman of the task force is still voicing a concern about that? Really? They haven’t settled that yet and the manual’s due to come out next year? I understand the impetus to refine and not make this diagnosis a catch-all and fall-back category. I really do. There are pressures and self-serving motivations for some parents and professionals to diagnosis shop, but they are not the majority and further, most learning disabilities (like dyslexia) and developmental disorders (such as Autism Spectrum) do run on a continuum from “mild” to “severe.”
I realize everything these days is a “cost issue,” but jeez, are the scientists on task forces designed to protect children the ones who should have that as their go-to concern about which they’re speaking in news interview? Those questions should have been settled long ago. Let the scientists and educators and other expert and interested parties struggle with the data and human questions and let the policy makers and politicians argue out the monitory pieces.