Global News

November 7, 2012

Study Establishes New Criteria For Autism Diagnosis

By: Cheryl Wills
Important news about autism: There's new criteria for diagnosing the developmental disorder and many parents are especially concerned how it may affect services they receive for their autistic child. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

Experts are calling a new study on autism one of the most comprehensive to date.

Research published in the Journal of American Psychiatry creates new criteria for diagnosing autism in an effort to simplify a cluster of conditions into one category called "Autism Spectrum Disorder."

Dr. Catherine Lord of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NY-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell & Columbia is one one of the study's authors.

"One of the reasons we're trying to do this is to have a single diagnosis so it's less confusing and has less arbitrary distinctions," she says.

Doctors evaluated 4,453 autistic children from across the U.S. and Canada. When they applied new criteria, they found that 91 percent qualified for the diagnosis.

To be diagnosed under the new criteria rules, individuals have to exhibit six or more of 12 behaviors, such as poor eye contact, language delays and lack of social bonding.

Although there was great anticipation for the study's results, there was also a lot of anxiety.

"When the APA changes their criteria it causes panic," says Lois Braverman, the president of the Ackerman Institute for the Family, which is one of the nation's leading training centers for family therapists. "Families with a special needs child would be totally concerned about how the problem is defined because it determines what kind of services they get for their child."

But the study's author says there is no cause for panic.

"There was so much concern, especially with people who had PDD and OS diagnoses and Asperger's diagnoses, which is now going to be folded into this general category of Autism Spectrum Disorders, that that would mean they would lose a diagnosis and lose services," Lord says. "What we were able to show is that's not true."

Reserachers say it's not true because if patients have one of those disorders, it's equivalent to the new category of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

To learn more about the study, visit

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