A new round of interest in the potential impact of diagnostic changes being proposed for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or “DSM”, was sparked last week by a report suggesting that many individuals would likely lose their diagnoses if the defining criteria for autism, Asperger’s disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified are changed. A number of the stories that we were seeing suggested that the definition was being tightened because of concerns relating to over-diagnosis, with one commenter offering that the change in definition would solve the autism epidemic by “nipping it in the bud”.
As one who has been directly involved in the DSM process and whose fingerprints are on some of these proposed changes, I have been asked to clarify what is going on and thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts here. Read full post »
A while back The Autism Blog received a comment from someone who suggested that the sharp rise in autism rates is a direct result of people wanting to make money. The person who posted this comment seemed quite frustrated by the apparent increase in the number of people being diagnosed with autism. I can thoroughly identify with and appreciate his or her frustration.
So, let’s take a deeper look at the issue. There is no doubt that the diagnosis of autism has increased tremendously in the past 15 years. And, are there undoubtedly people who have made money from many parents confused, frustrated and angry about this condition. That makes me sad and a bit angry as well. Nevertheless, to tarnish the entire professional community is unfair and inaccurate. Read full post »
It seems a month doesn’t go by without an article in the news highlighting some research study that has discovered a new risk for developing autism.
Just within the last year, published research articles in reputable scientific journals have correlated everything from antidepressants and paternal age to closely-spaced pregnancies and living in close proximity to freeways as associated with an autism diagnosis.
After the lay press editorializes and sensationalizes the findings, the correlation study has been converted into wording that implies causation. Read full post »
I recently read a fascinating book, The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for non-fiction is an extraordinary account starting with a discussion of the history of cancer from ancient times and rapidly moving to a discussion of the history of leukemia dating from the mid-19th century. The tale then moves rapidly to review the work of the “father of chemotherapy”, Sydney Farber, in the early and late 1940s.
This book is amazing because it is a serious science and medical history, yet it is engaging, even thrilling to read. Needless to say as a physician, I’m fascinated with medicine and science and as a former college history major, I love what history can teach us that we can apply today. If you take the time to read this, you’ll learn how a complex human disorder that potentially can affect us all has been understood piece by piece and to an extraordinary extent has been successfully treated, and in some cases, even “cured”. Read full post »
Many times when families see me, they ask what therapies they should try for their child. Unfortunately, there is no absolutely prescribed therapy or set of therapies for any child on the autism spectrum. Wouldn’t it be great if an easy roadmap to therapy existed in the dizzying world of therapy for children with autism? Wouldn’t it be great if the answers for how to treat a child (or adult) with autism were as easy as using an antibiotic for strep throat? Unfortunately children with autism spectrum disorders are so varied and their symptoms and problems are so diverse that choosing a single or many therapies is daunting. Read full post »