Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Inside the Autistic Mind

The "Autistic Mind" is the cover story for Time Magazine. Some articles are available with free registration here. One real shift we noticed in this article, is the recognition that classic symptoms are not always fixed: "Many classic symptoms of autism--spinning, head banging, endlessly repeating phrases--appear to be coping mechanisms rather than hard-wired behaviors. Other classic symptoms--a lack of emotion, an inability to love--can now be largely dismissed as artifacts of impaired communication. The same may be true of the supposedly high incidence of mental retardation..."

It's nice to see a more realistic coverage of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, but the writers didn't seem aware of the recent studies calling into question the skyrocketing rates of diagnosis. In a recent article in Pediatrics, researchers show pretty convincing evidence that at least part of the rise is due to the practice of "diagnostic substitution" - professionals or schools are more likely to reach for the autism label, and less likely to identify kids as having retardation or learning disabilities. This study is only available in abstract form for free.

Diagnostic Substitution and Autism

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