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New Autism Spectrum Disorder (NASD) in DSM-5: Autism Minus Intellectual Disability

The CDC web site introduces Autism Spectrum Disorders with some basic autism facts, including facts about Autistic Disorder and Intellectual Disability, which are being ignored by the American Psychiatric Association in its proposed revisions to the Pervasive Developmental Disorders (which will now formally be called Autism Spectrum Disorder) section of the DSM-5.  One simple, but very important,  fact which the APA will hide is the fact that  many people with Autistic Disorder, the classic "autism",  also have an Intellectual Disability. 

It is these people with Autistic Disorder and Intellectual Disability who have the most severe symptoms.  They will not typically author internet blogs, preside over corporate boards, conduct research, hold media interviews or mingle with Washington DC politicians and bureaucrats.  Those diagnosed today with Aspergers and mild PDD-NOS will be the faces of the New Autism Spectrum Disorder in the DSM 5 a transition which is already well underway with the Hollywood, the Mainstream Media and, in President Obama's administration, appointment of a hard line anti autism cure person with  high functioning Aspergers to a high profile disability council position. The classic instances  of Autistic Disorder with Intellectual Disability will be fully excluded from the New Autism Spectrum Disorder.

From the CDC's basic autism facts page:

"ASDs are “spectrum disorders.”  That means ASDs affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe.  People with ASDs share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction.  But there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms.

Autistic Disorder (also called “classic” autism)
This is what most people think of when hearing the word “autism.”  People with autistic disorder usually have significant language delays, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviors and interests. Many people with autistic disorder also have intellectual disability.

Asperger Syndrome
People with Asperger syndrome usually have some milder symptoms of autistic disorder.  They might have social challenges and unusual behaviors and interests.  However, they typically do not have problems with language or intellectual disability.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS; also called "atypical autism")   People who meet some of the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome, but not all, may be diagnosed with PDD-NOS. People with PDD-NOS usually have fewer and milder symptoms than those with autistic disorder.  The symptoms might cause only social and communication challenges.

The CDC statement that "many people with autistic disorder also have intellectual disability" is consistent with other authorities and studies including the Canadian Psychological Association  2006 brief to the Canadian Senate which stated that  "Cognitive impairment is present in about 80% of persons diagnosed with Autism and general intellectual functioning is most often below average".

The CPA reference to autism excludes Aspergers which is referenced separately. The statement is also consistent with the CDC's 2009 studies which found that "Data show a similar porportion of children with an ASD, also had signs of intellectual disability averaging 44% in 2004 and 41% in 2006".

The APA is of the view that the Pervasive Developmental Disorders should be grouped into one Autism Spectrum Disorder, nominally distinguished on grounds of severity of symptoms.  In fact though the intellectual disability which characterizes many instances of Autistic Disorder, of "classic" autism, will be separated from the Autism Spectrum which will alsoreduce its focus to "social communication" and "fixated interests and repetitive behaviors".  Significant language delays will not be major diagnostic criteria for the New Autism Spectrum Disorder in the APA's Brave New DSM 5. There will be no reference, even by necessary implication to Intellectual Disability in the DSM-5's New Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It is easy to speculate about the reasons motivating the APA in seeking to remove the Intellectually Disabled, low functioning, classically autistic from the New Autism Spectrum Disorder (NASD).  The NASD will make it impossible to use epidemiological studies to demonstrate any vaccine autism connections since the very definition of autism will have changed ... once again.  This will come in handy after the use of thimerosal laced vaccines in many areas during the great 2009 Swine Flu Panic.

Life will also be easier, and their consciences less ruffled, for those "clinicial psychologists" and researchers who focus almost exclusively on working with persons with High Functioning Autism and Aspergers.  On the research side those High Functioning Autism experts like Dr. Laurent Mottron who has published dozens of research papers involving subjects with High Functioning Autism, Aspergers and Savant qualities will now be able to truly claim to be autism experts without anyone mocking them for their obvious reluctance to study low functioning, intellectually disabled, severely autistic subjects. 

Clinical psychologists will find their success rates working with autistic subjects soaring when their autistic subjects all carry the New Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. Those more difficult low functioning autism cases will be relegated to the dustbins of history ... and forgotten completely in residential and institutional care facilities.  Clinical utility takes on a whole new dimension in the era of the New Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It will also be handy for the Ari Ne'eman's and other very high functioning persons with Aspergers who will now be able to speak with at least a little bit of credibility on behalf of persons with the New Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is a wish granted for Ari Ne'eman, Amanda Baggs, Michelle Dawson and Alex Plank. These persons with HFA and Aspergers are high profile opponents of attempts to cure people, even other people's children, of their autism disorders.  Cementing their status as spokespersons for the New Autism Spectrum Disorder will take some pressure off of the health authorities, including psychiatrists, and "autism" researchers who do not want to spend their time and resources seeking cures for autism disorders.

In the  Brave New World of the DSM-5 everyone will be happy except the severely disabled, low functioning persons with Autistic Disorder and Intellectual Disability, the "classic" autistics ... and the parents and family members who are the only ... the ONLY ...  ones fighting on their behalf.  Members of the APA will be busy slapping each other on the back and congratulating themselves for solving the Autism Crisis in the way they know best ... by defining it away.   

The New Autism Spectrum Disorder has arrived.


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