3 Reasons Why the Changes to Autism Criteria Will Have Little Impact on Special Education Services!

Are you the parent of a child with autism? Have you heard that the American Psychiatric Association voted to approve changes to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5); and are concerned how this is going to affect your child’s special education services? The good news is it probably is not going to affect your child’s special education services.Past versions of the DSM placed autism at the top of the umbrella with Retts Syndrome, Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS), and Asperger’s under the umbrella, but having their own categories. Now all the categories mentioned will be under one diagnosis-Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).Here are three reasons why these changes will probably not affect your child’s special education services:1. The DSM V will be used by Psychiatrists and other medical professionals not school districts. Each State Department of Education should have their own eligibility criteria, which school districts must adhere to; so the changes should not affect school districts.2. Most school districts use autism rating scales such as the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), or depend on school psychologists to make the diagnosis. Actually, with all the different disorders under one diagnosis, may help you and your child more, than the way it was in the past; because some school districts fought very hard against recognizing PDD and Asperger’s as Autism.3. Many children are diagnosed with Autism by an independent evaluator, either paid for by the parent or by the school district. Since many school districts absolutely refuse to state (in most cases) that a child has the disorder, the parent usually needs to take the child to a qualified evaluator with experience testing children with the disorder. Since most children are diagnosed in this manner, the changes proposed should not affect their diagnosis.For those parents that are still concerned that their child’s disability will not be recognized, a comprehensive study was recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry that could help calm your fears that this could happen. The study found that the new criteria identified a majority of children already diagnosed with one of the disorders.Another positive issue that this revision addresses is that it allows for flexibility in the criteria for age of onset. In the past the DSM’s stated that children needed to have onset of symptoms before a certain age (and also needed to be diagnosed by a certain age). This was a huge issue for many children whose school districts refuse to identify them with Autism. My own son Shaun never was diagnosed with PDD-NOS; even though I believe that special educators in my district knew that this was what my son’s disability was. He is now an adult, and struggles to work, without any governmental help because of the lack of diagnosis.I have found many times over the years that some people in the disability field tend to react to things without investigating whether the changes are good or are bad, for children with disabilities. I hope this article has educated you and helps you to be able to assertively and persistently advocate for your child!

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