Patt Morrison

<em>Patt Morrison</em> is known for its innovative discussions of local politics and culture, as well as its presentation of the effects of national and world news on Southern California. Hosted by

Autism redefined: many may lose diagnoses and health benefits

by Patt Morrison

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A therapist of Dora Alonso Special School gives a ball to an autistic child, on February 11, 2008, in Havana. Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images

What happens if your professionally diagnosed disorder is no longer defined as a disorder by doctors? Thousands of people may find their mental disorder diagnoses moot based on a pending reassessment of autism, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive development disorder being conducted by the American Psychiatric Association.

According to some proponents of the change, the proposed redefinition would virtually end the apparent surge of autism diagnoses. The potential change would consolidate all three disorders into one category known as “autism spectrum disorder,” eliminating Asperger syndrome and pervasive development disorder, not otherwise specified. This might make it more difficult for many people to get health, educational, and social services. The narrower definition of these disorders is expected when the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is officially published in 2013. This will be the first major revision in 17 years.


Has autism been over-diagnosed? How will the possible redefinition of these disorders impact autism and Asperger syndrome communities?


Catherine Lord, Ph.D., a member of the task force working on redefining the autism diagnosis for the DSM-5; director, Institute for Brain Development

Dr. Ricki Robinson, M.D., M.P.H., co-director, Descanso Medical Center for Development and Learning; pediatrics professor, Keck School of Medicine USC

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