Autism definition to change

Autism from Pavement Pieces on Vimeo.

Autism is a developmental disorder, typically emerging within a child’s first three years. Individuals with autism struggle with communication, social interaction, and may exhibit repetitive behaviors.

There is no biological test to determine autism; rather, doctors often look to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders when conducting behavioral evaluations to determine a diagnosis and allocate support and insurance. A new volume of the manual, known as the DSM-V, has been proposed and will change some aspects of the definition of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Dr. Amy Davies-Lackey has worked with in the field of ASD for 18 years. She estimates that the DSM-V will have a significant impact on individuals with autism.

“It just makes the definition much more narrow,” she said. “The people it’s most likely to affect would be those who are, I would say, highest functioning on the autism spectrum, most likely those with Asperger’s Syndrome.”

The new manual will not likely eliminate services for anyone entirely, but is still of concern.

“A great frustration for me is the level of services that exist out there for a very large population,” she said.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that today 1 child in 88 is autistic.

Although Dr. Davies-Lackey is discouraged by this shortage of services, she is often encouraged by her students’ progress.

“I’ve had so many students who exceed my expectations always,” she said. “I’ve learned over the years to never make predictions for any particular student.”