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Definition of Autism May Be Changing

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The diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorders may be changing to exclude many high-functioning adults and kids, according to The New York Times. For the first time in 17 years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly know as the DSM, which helps define the criteria for being on the spectrum, is being refined by an expert panel selected by the American Psychiatric Association. Although the new edition won’t be finalized until later this year, the panel is considering narrowing the criteria so it would no longer include many of those currently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (aka PDD-NOS), both considered less severe forms of autism.

Plus: Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders

The stricter criteria are a reaction to worries about the ballooning rate of autism, currently estimated to be about one in every 100 kids. While some of the increase may be real, much of it is most likely due to better recognition of the disorders by professionals and the public. A more narrow definition of the disorder will bring the rate down, but will also mean that many high-functioning but still affected patients will no longer qualify for government services. Experts disagree about what percentage of those currently diagnosed with an ASD would be affected.

Plus: The Story Behind the False Autism-Vaccines Link

Read about the various Autism Spectrum Disorders and the differences between them here. Is your kid on the spectrum? How would these proposed changes affect your family?

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