The proposed changes, which were developed by a panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, are expected to take effect May 2013.
As reported by the New York Times, findings that 45% or more of children who currently qualify for a diagnosis of autism would not under the new criteria, caused widespread concern among parents who depend on state-financed health services for their children.
Although, the latest study finds that only 10 percent of these children would be excluded under the new criteria.
Dr. Catherine Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Westchester campus said “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.”
In an article written by Dr. Joshua Weinstein, founder and CEO of ICare4Autism, he states “The APA, meanwhile, has reassured those affected that no previously covered group will be left out in the cold. The changes would involve merging several diagnoses currently listed separately in the DSM-5 into a single umbrella category of “Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
Dr. Lord and her colleagues examined 4,453 children who are currently diagnosed with autism and found that 91 percent of them would still qualify for the diagnosis under the proposed new criteria. The study added that many of the remaining 9 percent would likely qualify with additional input from their doctors.
The overall issue with the current criteria is “not that a lot of people are diagnosed with autism who shouldn’t be, but that there is a lot of confusion because the criteria were not very accurate,” Lord said in a hospital news release. The researchers said the suggested changes are designed to improve the identification of autism and to distinguish it from other conditions
Lord explained that in developing the new criteria, the panel “deliberately added and organized things to try to bring in and better address the needs of people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) of all developmental levels and ages — including girls, who were not represented as well as they should be in” the current criteria.
Lord also said that the goal of the new criteria “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.”