For those affected by autism, it truly is the best and the worst of times.
As a mom who's only recently dipped her feet into the deep, often murky waters of this disorder, I am learning to laugh through my tears. With an estimated 1 in 88 children being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorders (ASD), there is more awareness than ever. We are opening our eyes, digging our heads out the sand. And it's a wonderful, long overdue thing.
For now there is still help at hand—a glut of workshops, books, and blogs—albeit a parent has to jump through several hoops, and wait many moons, to get at it. Yet I, and many others like me, rue the day when we will be left to fend for ourselves. And that day may be coming sooner than any of us would like to think.
Next year, the American Psychiatric Association plans to restrict the parameters of what's classed as an ASD. It's estimated that the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will result in 75 percent fewer diagnosed cases of Asperger's or pervasive disorders, and as many as 25 percent fewer cases of what's referred to as classic autism.
Call me a cynic. Such a cull doesn't mean that there will be fewer autistic kids milling around in 2013, but simply that governments will have stumbled upon a convenient means to cut funding for the therapies on which those touched by autism so depend.
My preschooler has recently been diagnosed with Asperger's. Though essentially on the 'high functioning' end of the autism spectrum, he nonetheless faces very real, daily challenges. Yes, we are lucky that he is verbal. Yes, I appreciate that there are others worse off than him. That's not to say we as a family don't desperately need help. With early intervention, my son and other Aspies have a fighting chance of learning the tools they will need to cope, even thrive, in a neuro-typical world.
That's why the proposed changes to the DSM terrify and sadden me. If we don't pay now, by providing autistic children (regardless of their level of disability) the assistance they need, they will most certainly pay later.