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Autism definition changes, creates concern

According to a new definition of autism put out by the American Psychiatric Association, it may be more difficult for some with the disorder to be diagnosed. The new criteria could also make it harder for those in Georgia and elsewhere with autism to get Social Security disability benefits. Those with loved ones who have autism are worried about how the new definition will affect their friends and family members.

Previous guidelines for the diagnosis of autism required that a patient show six of 12 specific behaviors. According to the new guidelines, the patient must have at least two repetitive behaviors and show deficiency in three ways regarding social interaction and communication.

A spokeswoman from the Autism Education Center said that advocates are not happy with the change. Autism is a fairly common disorder, with one in every 110 children estimated to have it. The new criteria will not only exclude some in the community, but may also result in funding cuts for autism programs.

One mother with a 3-year-old son with autism said early intervention is key. She is afraid that the new criteria could lead to missed diagnoses and patients wrongly treated for obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and a slew of other similar disorders.

Many are concerned with the impact on children, but adults with autism will also be affected. One man who has lived with autism his entire life said there is no frame of reference within Social Security disability to diagnose and provide benefits for an adult.

It seems that the effects of this change could be sweeping. It's important that people who think that this change may affect them to consult with an attorney who is experienced in advocating for children and adults with autism and can get them the benefits they deserve.

Source: WJHG, "Changes in Autism Definition Concerns Autistic Community," Kavontae Smalls, Jan. 23, 2012

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