Problems with diagnosing autism

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2022 | Medical Malpractice

In 2015, the Mississippi legislature enacted House Bill 885, requiring insurers to provide coverage for various treatments for autism spectrum disorders, including autism. The bill also established a licensure process for businesses providing autism services. The bill cites the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for the most recent definition of autism spectrum disorder or ASD. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association changed the terminology from autism to ASD.

Understanding autism spectrum disorder

The DSM-5 released in 2013 newly identified ASD as an umbrella diagnosis that includes autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder — not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). These are no longer thought of as separate disorders with distinctly different diagnostics. The DSM-5 criteria for diagnosing ASD is based on identifying a child who has difficulty with social communication and restricted, repetitive and/or sensory interests or behaviors. To qualify for ASD, children must be struggling in both areas.

More on diagnosing ASD

No one has a concrete answer on what causes ASD just yet. The medical industry considers it a genetic and developmental condition, rather than a disorder caused by trauma or medical malpractice. Aspergers has long been described as a milder form of autism, just more high functioning. Today, people who used to be diagnosed with Asperger’s are now diagnosed with ASD. PDD-NOS has been dubbed atypical autism by some, due to patients expressing some criteria from both Asperger’s and autism.

The criteria and terminology used to describe autism have changed substantially since 2013 and the general public’s understanding today is still lacking. The changes in 2013 were primarily due to the medical industry’s lack of understanding about autism disorder. A recent study on misdiagnoses of adults with ASD found that most common past diagnoses for ASD patients included intellectual disability, psychosis, depression and personality disorders.