The rates of autism have increased approximately 1000% since the 1980s. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) describes the cluster of neurodevelopmental disorders as defined by American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Officially, there are now 1 in 88 children in the United States who have ASD. Boys are almost five times more likely to be autistic than girls — with 1 in 54 boys now identified. To curb the rates at which children will be identified with the illness in the future, new guidelines issued by the APA will reduce by almost one third the total number of those diagnosed, according to new research from Columbia University School of Nursing published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
The guidelines, released in May 2013 and the first major update to psychiatric diagnosis criteria in almost two decades, may leave thousands of developmentally delayed children each year without the ASD diagnosis they need to qualify for social services, medical benefits and educational support.
A team led by Kristine M. Kulage, MA, MPH, director of the Office of Scholarship and Research Development at Columbia Nursing, conducted a systematic literature review and meta-analysis to determine the effect of changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the APA’s classification tool for psychiatric conditions, on diagnosis of individuals with ASD.
Due to the need for adequate returns on costly advertising campaigns, the DSM has been strongly criticized for medicalize “normal human experiences.” Intermittent explosive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, mathematics disorder are arguably some of the stranger diagnoses floating around in the medical literature. And although ridiculous to any sane person, many medical professionals say that these disorders are legitimate conditions that often warrant treatment on behalf of Big Pharma’s effort to control diagnoses.
New Guideline Decreases ASD by 31 Percent
The study found a statistically significant decrease in ASD diagnosis of 31 percent using the new manual, DSM-5, compared with the number of cases of ASD that would have been identified under the previous version of the manual, DSM-IV-TR.
“This study raises a concern that a medical provider diagnosing a child under the new guidelines won’t find the child to be on the autism spectrum, when the same child under the old criteria might have been diagnosed with ASD,” says Kulage.
The old manual, DSM-IV-TR, included three distinct subgroups under the broad definition of ASD: autistic disorder (AD), Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). The revised manual, DSM-5, eliminates these subgroups, instead establishing a more limited range of criteria for a diagnosis of ASD that is designed to encompass individuals who previously would have fallen into one of the subgroups. The DSM-5 also added a new category called social communication disorder (SCD) to diagnose individuals who have verbal and nonverbal communication impairments but lack other attributes associated with autism. Some individuals diagnosed with PDD-NOS under the old manual would be identified as individuals with SCD under DSM-5, according to the APA.
Under DSM-5, there was a statistically significant decrease in AD diagnosis of 22 percent, compared with the fourth edition of the manual, the meta-analysis found. There was also a statistically significant decrease of 70 percent in diagnosis of PDD-NOS. While diagnosis of Asperger’s also declined under DSM-5, the reduction was not statistically significant. In addition, the study found that some individuals who no longer met the criteria for an ASD diagnosis under DSM-5 would also fail to meet the criteria for SCD.
“We are potentially going to lose diagnosis and treatment for some of the most vulnerable kids who have developmental delays,” says Kulage. “In many instances, children require a diagnosis of ASD to receive medical benefits, educational support and social services.”
A vaccine industry watchdog has recently obtained CDC documents that show statistically significant risks of autism associated with the vaccine preservative thimerosal, something the CDC denies even when confronted with their own data. Ironically the first-ever vaccine created by University of Guelph researchers to control autistic symptoms was announced last year.
People with ASD tend to have difficulties with communication, misread nonverbal interactions, and have difficulty making friends. They may also be heavily reliant on routines, extremely sensitive to changes in their environment, and intensely focused on interests not appropriate to the social context they are in. Symptoms fall on a continuum, with variation in severity, and early diagnosis and access to treatment have been proven to result in better outcomes.
Far too many medical professionals swiftly encourage the route of standard (yet outdated) medications for autism and ignore the abundance of science and research that currently supports effective recovery protocols.
The paper is titled: “How Will DSM-5 Affect Autism Diagnosis? A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-analysis” and it appeared in the February 2014 issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Other contributors are: from Columbia Nursing, Arlene Smaldone, PhD, CPNP, associate professor and assistant dean, scholarship and research, and Elizabeth Cohn, PhD, RN, assistant professor and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar. Kulage completed the research while enrolled in a master’s degree program at Joseph P. Mailman School of Public Health.
Dave Mihalovic is a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in vaccine research, cancer prevention and a natural approach to treatment.