A new proposal seeks to eliminate diagnoses of Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder, and other sub-types of Autism Spectrum Disorders by removing the titles and lumping all of these under the umbrella of a general Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
This proposed change has prompted much concern for several reasons. First, the proposed changes could narrow the criteria for ASD, limiting the ability of children demonstrating problems in areas of social, cognitive and/or physical development to receive the diagnosis necessary to receive the appropriate supports and services. Proponents of the changes say they will help, not hurt, people on the Autism spectrum, but how does anyone even know? Little research has been done demonstrating how the proposed changes will impact children on the Autism spectrum which could have serious implications in the healthcare, school, and home environments in the near future.
Second, little is known about how these proposed changes will impact children, teenagers, and adults with current diagnoses. No one should be forced to undergo additional assessments that are time-consuming and potentially costly (not every state covers the cost of these assessments) simply because of these changes. Moreover, it would not be reasonable to deny existing individuals access to services by stating they do not qualify because they do not meet the criteria under the new ASD umbrella diagnosis.
Third, understanding and awareness about Autism spectrum disorders have only recently begun to increase. Individuals diagnosed with Asperger's have obtained some degree of understanding due to exploration of the condition on television shows like Parenthood. Removing this diagnosis from the DSM would undermine all of the progress that has been made in this regard. It would also contribute to confusion regarding the different characteristics associated with the sub-types of Autism. All people are unique. Not all treatment methods for people on the Autism spectrum are similar, and even when they are this does not warrant a one-size-fits-all diagnosis for all individuals on the spectrum!
We, the undersigned, ask that much more research take place before any changes are made and that the implications of any proposed future changes be examined thoroughly before they are implemented. This has not been done for the above-described changes. We feel that much more harm will come of these changes than good. If the sub-type descriptions in the current DSM are problematic, fix them. But please do not completely eliminate all of these diagnoses without any knowledge or regard for potential consequences.
We ask that the review committee listen to the voices of the people and families affected by Autism before making any changes. It is the quality of our lives at stake here.
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