• Petitioned American Psychiatric Association

This petition was delivered to:

American Psychiatric Association

Don't limit the definition of autism spectrum disorders

    1. Emily Brooks
    2. Petition by

      Emily Brooks

      brooklyn, NY

When I read the January 19, 2012 New York Times article "New Definition of Autism Will Exclude Many, Study Suggests", my heart sank. According to Benedict Carey's article (you can read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/20/health/research/new-autism-definition-would-exclude-many-study-suggests.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp), the American Psychiatric Association is completely changing their diagnosis for autism and autism spectrum disorders, hoping to greatly reduce the number of those diagnosed with ASDs. The APA 's new definition of ASDs will reduce diagnoses of Asperger's Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (P.D.D. - N.O.S.), focusing the autism diagnosis mainly on those with lower cognitive functioning.

Carey explains in the New York Times article that, following the proposed guidelines for "autism spectrum disorders" in the upcoming DSM V, a Yale University research team found that many from their sample of individuals diagnosed with ASD in 1993 would no longer be diagnosed: "About a quarter of those identified with classic autism in 1993 would not be so identified under the proposed criteria; about three-quarters of those with Asperger syndrome would not qualify; and 85 percent of those with P.D.D.-N.O.S. would not. [...] Dr. Volkmar said that although the proposed diagnosis would be for disorders on a spectrum and implies a broader net, it focuses tightly on 'classically autistic' children on the more severe end of the scale. 'The major impact here is on the more cognitively able,' he said" (Carey 2012).

The reason that this is so disturbing is because many of the children that the US special education system currently serves would no longer receive needed educational, health, and social services once the new DSM V comes out. Autism is not being over-diagnosed; rather, more doctors, teachers, and parents have access to information about ASDs now than they did in 1993.

Children with whom I work right now may be denied services, and thus struggle and fail later in the worlds of school, social relationships, and work. Services such as early intervention and special education are necessary for children with ASDs to learn how to not only cope, but also become successful and happy in the world. Cognitive ability should not be the measuring stick of need, because in every situation, we need to interact with others appropriately and deal with the social world in which we live.

I work with children who thrive after receiving the services that the new definition of ASDs thinks they don't need. On behalf of the kids, I am advocating for the American Psychiatric Association to NOT limit the definition of autism spectrum disorders to severe, low-functioning people. Instead of worrying about the cost of special education and social services, we should realize how helpful it is for our young citizens to learn how to be successful in this complex social world. To be on the spectrum and perform some social skills that seem "natural" can be exhausting, uncomfortable, not intuitive, and even scary. Special ed and other services can help make this easier.

Whether you realize it or not, you probably know someone on the spectrum, and if you don't realize it, it may be that they received therapeutic services because of a diagnosis they received. Don't stop people from getting the help they deserve; share this with your friends and family members!

Recent signatures


    1. Reached 25 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Tamara Cox BERRIEN SPRINGS, MI
      • over 2 years ago

      My son has Aspergers. If he had not been considered "high functioning autism", he would not have received the accommodations and modifications necessary for success at school and, consequently, life. This allowed him to have an IEP in place. As importantly, it explained his idiosyncratic behavior. At least, by the faculty and administration, he was more understood instead of being labeled "weird" or "naughty" and punished for being "autistic".

    • Ilyse Levine-Kanji WESTBOROUGH, MA
      • over 2 years ago
    • heather middleton SRALIGHT, PA
      • over 2 years ago

      there are many out there that need help dont let them down

    • Bobbi-Jo Ferguson Gould JENSEN BEACH, FL
      • over 2 years ago

      As a mother with an Autistic child I do not want this to happen. It is estimated that 85% of those receiving any type of help or assistance currently would lose that help. That is ridiculous. I have to fight to get my son the help he needs in school and had to fight for him to be transferred to a special needs school. Why should we have to fight so much when it is so clearly a problem and the people with this disease need help. The government should NOT do this, changes need to be made but not to this extent. I suggest they take some of the money from the politicians salaries and put it towards more schools and funding that are aimed specifically for those with special needs.

    • Gary Gray STOCKTON, CA
      • over 2 years ago

      This is important. Stop the illegal profiting and education exploitation of at-risk youth in California, link on my name.


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