Proposal to change autism definition may affect thousands - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Proposal to change autism definition may affect thousands

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A proposal to change the definition of autism could affect thousands of families. Health experts are looking to narrow the criteria used to diagnose autism. The definition is being re-assessed by the American Psychiatric Association for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It's one of the first major revisions in 17 years. 

If changed the new definition would make it much harder for people to meet the criteria for health, education and social services. Tightening the criteria for autism may hurt more than help those who are autistic. Experts are worried a change could make it harder for children to receive health benefits. They're concerned that some will not be eligible for treatments, even if they have a mild case.

Therapists are worried if the definition becomes too strict it will leave out some of the high functioning patients that need treatment. Responding to Autism Director Christine Lindgren says "it does worry me a little bit of the higher functioning kidos. This may be an obstacle, another obstacle that might be causing some of the kids to really not get the support that they need."

Autism ranges from high functioning to low functioning. Health experts look for the common factors like communication, social and repetitive delays to pin-point the disorder.