Recently, there have been proposed changes to medical requirements for diagnosing autism spectrum disorders in children. According to a new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, parents should not be concerned that these revisions, which appear in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, will affect their son or daughter's eligibility for psychiatric and medical care.
Ongoing research strives to learn what causes autism
Autism is a developmental disorder that typically first presents itself during the first three years of a child's life. The precise causes are not yet known, but scientists hypothesize that it may be partially due to genetics, as well as diet, digestive tract changes, mercury poisoning during pregnancy, the body's inability to properly use nutrients or vaccine sensitivity, according to the National Institutes of Health.
There is a broad range of autistic conditions, which is why some parents worry their child will no longer be categorized as autistic if he or she has a milder form. After examining more than 4,400 autistic children, researchers found that only 9 percent of those kids would be excluded from diagnosis under the new criteria. However, these children could potentially be later categorized as autistic after being more thoroughly evaluated by a clinician.
"I know that parents worry, but I don't believe there is any substantial reason to fear that children who need to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, and provided with vital services, will not be included in the new criteria in this updated manual," said senior investigator Catherine Lord, who is the director the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, located in New York.
It's not a rare condition
Currently, one in every 88 children have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is no cure for the condition. However, there are medications available to help affected individuals function better. For instance, the CDC explains that certain drugs may help patients manage high energy levels, concentration, depression and seizures.
Today, more can be done for autistic children now than ever before. There is an increased focus on giving them education at the pace they need to learn, as well as therapy focusing on behavior and communication skills. The new guidelines have been developed to help affected kids.
"The goal of [the new guidelines] is to better describe who has ASD in a way that matches up with what we know from research, which predicts who has the disorder and also reflects what clinicians are actually looking at," said Lord.
Have you ever had experience working with children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder? Leave your answers in the comments section!