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Children's Health

Some Experts Worried Over Revised Autism Guidelines

The New Year hasn’t even started yet, but some parents are already looking ahead to 2013.

In May 2013, the American Psychiatric Association will release a new, revised set of guidelines for diagnosing someone with autism spectrum disorder.

And some experts don’t think this is a good idea.

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and Fox News contributor, said rather than having separate disorders in the autistic “arena,” the association is proposing one name for all such disorders, which include repetitive behavior (autism spectrum disorder, pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified and Asperger’s).

“They are monkeying with the definition of how severe symptoms must be to fit into a new and broad category called autism spectrum disorder, rather than autism and Asperger’s, et cetera,” Ablow said.

The association’s decision to adopt stricter standards stems from the debate of how to define disorders, so that they can embrace the proper populations, while triggering insurance company reimbursements, said Ablow, who disagrees with a change in diagnostic manual so soon.

"I don't understand how a professional association can meet every few years and declare that some disorders are not in existence anymore and invent new ones to replace them," he added.

These new guidelines would place an emphasis on preservative and repetitive behaviors – but many children who were originally diagnosed with autism may be reclassified.

Ablow said this can leave some people who are still suffering with some of the symptoms or less severe symptoms out in the cold.

“If we don’t loosen it a little bit, I suspect that some of these high-functioning kids may actually either get shifted into a different diagnosis,” said Dr. Thomas Frazier, who treats children with autism at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. “So, for example, they might move to a new diagnosis called social communication disorder.”

Frazier said he is also worried about children who are already classified, and how the reclassification could affect the educational assistance they receive at school.

“Your educational classification really indicates what kind of services and accommodations you're going to get at school,” he said. “And autism is one of the highest educational classifications; so many people with autism get a significant amount of services through their school. I think the worry by a lot of parents is that ‘if my child loses that classification what happens?’ And we don’t know what’s going to happen yet.”