You have heard the news, and if you are a parent of a child with high functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, you are worried!
By May 2013, an autism diagnosis will likely be much harder to obtain than in the past. The American Psychiatric Association is making final revisions to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, including drastic changes to the criteria by which individuals are diagnosed with autism.
While these changes will have less impact on those diagnosed with “classic autism,” people who are currently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, likely won’t be diagnosed under the new, stricter guidelines. In fact, the proposed new guidelines would eliminate the Asperger’s classification completely.
What does this mean for those currently diagnosed with Asperger’s?
According to a recent study by Yale University, less than half of patients currently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome will receive an autism diagnosis under the proposed new guidelines. Without that diagnosis, they will no longer have access to the therapies or educational resources neccesary to help them learn to interact and grow into socially adjusted adults.
I asked Mark Claypool, a fellow optimist who I turned to for reassurance, to talk about these changes might affect our kids. Mark president and CEO of Spectrum Center Schools and Programs, an organization that provides academic programs, life skills training, vocational and transition services, support services and collaborative classrooms to students with autism, emotional disturbance, physical challenges and developmental delays:
Laura: My son has autism, but has never been considered “high-functioning”. Friends with children with Asperger’s Syndrome and HFA tell me how lucky I am–that it is easier fro me to get services for my son.What is your take on this issue?
Mark Claypool: It’s a frustrating problem for parents. Kids are getting caught in-between and every day that goes by for a child not getting the services that they need is a lost day.
Laura: I know parents of children with unspecified learning differences and behavior problems that have pushed for a diagnosis of autism just to get services. What has been your experience?
Mark Claypool: No parent wants their child to be misdiagnosed with a disability, no matter how badly they want the services. Perhaps the revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will help us refocus on the needs of a child as an individual and not a label.
Laura: California and many other states now mandate insurance coverage for children on the autism spectrum for ABA. Doesn’t that lighten the load and responsibility of school districts?
Mark Claypool: Ideally, but right now, the schools are pointing at the insurance companies and the insurance companies are pointing at the schools. “Aren’t you going to do that?”
Laura: The most rewarding aspect of your job?
- Making public schools work for children with disabilities
- Working with school districts to help them design services for children that need them
- Including children with disabilities and keeping them at their home schools, rather than sending them to non-public schools.
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