Book Revision Might Hurt Some Special Needs Kids

Cynthia Dermody
DSM IV cover


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Ever heard of it? amazon sells it for $70 (but I'm sure you won't click to Look Inside). It's the title of a book that doctors use to identify and treat mental conditions in adults and kids, and most of us would think it's written in another language.

Why should you care about it? Because doctors are in the process of revising it, and that could be a big deal if you have a child with autism, Asperger's, ADHD, or other special needs condition.

One controversial kid-related revamp would be the addition of an "at-risk" category for those who may show early symptoms of illnesses such as psychosis, according to a report on AOL News.

This might unfairly label as "pre-psychotic" kids who operate a little left of mainstream in their ideas and behaviors but who are otherwise pretty normal.

But there's more ...

Several childhood disorders could be lumped together under one umbrella "autism spectrum disorders" that would include autism and Asperger's, often described as "high functioning" autism.

aurorabunny, CafeMom mom of 3 year old Brody and author of Special Needs Living each week in Toddler Buzz, is torn about the changes.

"On one hand, I don't like it," she says. "The more conditions included under the 'autism umbrella' the more it perpetuates the myth that 'autism is the new ADD" and that it's being over-diagnosed. I believe autism rates are genuinely high, not overestimated.

"A potential positive -- children with Asperger's have challenges as well, and being under the autism label might help them to obtain resources. Then again, some of them are so high functioning that many would never even assume they were autistic," aurorabunny says. "I would hate it if Asperger's started to define autism so that when people met someone like my son, who is more severely affected, they would think 'All the other kids I know with autism are pretty normal, what's wrong with this kid?' "

Are the proposed changes to the "psychiatric bible" a good or bad thing when it comes to your special needs child?

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