Autism criteria could change, some worry they will lose benefits

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The number of children diagnosed with Autism goes up every year, but some fear they could lose the diagnosis, and the support that goes along with it.

The American Psychiatric Association is working on new criteria, to define all types of developmental disorders.

Like most 10-year-olds, Kirsten loves to play with her Legos, and enjoys history and science at school. But, she has Aspergers, a diagnosis that took years to confirm.

Her mom, Jaana Alunni said, "She does seem to present herself as a typical child, but she melt downs, she has OCDs." Plus, Autism is more common in boys.

Now, Jaana spends everyday making sure Kirsten gets the support she needs, and the Autism Society of East Tennessee has been their guide.

Brook Dickerson is the Executive Director of the group, which covers every county in East Tennessee. She said, "In every community there is an individual with Autism , either a child, adult, or somewhere in between."

The current criteria, for Autism and other developmental disorders, was set in 1994. Now, the american psychiatric association is working on new criteria.

In a release, they said the intention of the changes is to create a more accurate diagnosis and hopefully more focused treatments.

Jaana said, "I don't think that the Asperger community, or the mild Autism community, would benefit from this at all."

Dickerson explained many parents in the local organization feel this way because each person shows different signs of Aspergers.

Dickerson said, "You realize that they're either missing the meaning of what's behind your words, or they're focused on one topic and they can only talk about the one topic."

She said the more specific criteria, currently being tested in field trials, could take away the diagnosis.

"Without therapies, without the support and resources that the diagnosis provides, these children would not be able to function as adults," Dickerson explained.

The American Psychiatric Association stated in the release that the trials don't indicate anyone with Autism would lose their diagnosis.

You will be able to share your thoughts with them online in the Spring, CLICK HERE. The changes are part of the publication of the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in May 2013.

For more information and support from the Autism Society of East Tennessee, CLICK HERE.

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