Changing the Way Autism is Diagnosed?

Autism may see changes to the way it is diagnosed

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) There are proposed changes to the way autism is diagnosed that will group all autism spectrum disorders (ASD) together. Some parents are worried how these changes will impact their children.

A recent study found the new classification system did a good job of catching autism cases.

This new classification did exclude a small percentage of children with milder ASD symptoms. The change should help these few get better treatments.

"Ask a psychiatrist about new ASD classifications."

Researchers, led by Marisela Huerta, PhD, at the Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital, looked at the new diagnostic criterion for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version five (DSM-V).

In the fourth version of the manual that is used today, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) is classified as a separate disorder, but it is considered to be within the autism spectrum.

The most recent edition of the manual groups all ASD conditions into one category.

The researchers looked at test scores and parent ratings for 4,453 children with PDD and 690 without PDD but who had another language disorder.

They reclassified the children according to new standards. They found 91 percent of children with PDD were classified under the new ASD umbrella.

The new system did a good job of separating children with PDD from those with other disorders. The nine percent that were not included had milder symptoms that may fall on the fringes of ASD.

dailyRx News spoke with Glen Elliott, MD, PhD, a child psychiatrist about these results.

He said, “We do not have an absolute reliable way of determining who does or does not fit what we currently call PDD and soon may be calling ASD.“

“It is a clinical diagnosis with potentially major implications for services provided as well as prognosis.”

He went on to say, “Those with milder symptoms may fall outside the new circle, but these investigators are suggesting they well may be because the diagnosis is more precise, not less.“

Dr. Elliott said the children who might be outside the new ASD diagnosis are a cause for concern.

However, he said when children are excluded it “…may open up the possibility of considering other possible explanations for the difficulties that child is having, which potentially could lead to more effective treatment and better outcomes.”

This study was published October 1 in The American Journal of Psychiatry. This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The authors declare no competing interests.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 13, 2012
Last Updated:
October 15, 2012