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New Guidelines to Diagnose Autism Worry Parents

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A government survey shows new guidelines to diagnose autism might exclude some children from receiving the diagnosis.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A government survey shows new guidelines to diagnose autism might exclude some children from receiving the diagnosis.

The American Psychiatric Association recently redefined its diagnostic manual, which is called the DSM, from DSM-4 to DSM-5.

Some parents are now concerned that the criteria is too strict.

Nine years ago, Annette Brandenburg took her son to the doctor for a routine checkup.

"And the pediatrician who was attending that day asked me if I was concerned about the fact he wasn't speaking very much," she said.

She was shocked when her son received the label "autistic."

"It's a journey that every parent who receives that diagnosis goes through," she said.

She is worried about a recent decision by The American Psychiatric Association to change the criteria for diagnosing the disorder.

"A lot of parents are unsure how it's going to affect our kids," she said.

Mercy Hospital Pediatric Psychiatrist Kyle John said the change simplifies the definition of autism.

"They had all these rules and all these subsets and when the committee got together to rewrite the DSM, they said let's do away with that. Let's just call it what it is, which is Autism Spectrum Disorder."

But a government study found that under the new criteria fewer children currently labeled autistic would receive that diagnosis now.

That's a concern for Brandenburg.

"Insurance requires a formal diagnosis before they will pay for services," she said.

But John isn't worried that kids who need the diagnosis will be excluded.

"I think we might actually capture more kids with a broadened diagnostic criteria and title," he said.

Brandenburg is a bit more skeptical.

"My hope is that those tools will be used properly by the diagnosing professionals," she said.

She said it will take time to see how this change affects kids in the long run.
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