Autism Controversies

There is still much disagreement over what is the exact nature of autism, however as a general rule it is considered to be a neurodevelopmental condition which then manifests itself in a lack of communication ability, abnormal social interaction, and abnormal patterns of interests, and behavior. It goes on to encompass a very wide range of atypical conditions, none of these is as of yet, well understood.

Although there are many common and specific physical conditions linked to the autism spectrum disorders, not everyone diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders will experience these. The diagnostic criteria, as of 2006, are still as a rule, limited to psychiatric and cognitive evaluation methods, using the IQ score, and certain patterns of abilities (common to those patients with autism) in the formal diagnosis of autism.  This diagnostic criteria is then used to distinguish Autism, from Asperger's Syndrome during the time of diagnosis.

The cause or causes of autism and the spectrum of pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) are still unknown, as are the prognoses, or best treatment options. There is, however, widespread agreement that early diagnosis and intervention will often make a very significant difference for the long term outlook of a person with autism. The human mind, as well as the nervous system, are more elastic at younger ages.  This is why research for possible therapies and treatments will often be focused toward children who have been diagnosed at a young age, with a spectrum disorder. The disadvantage to this is that many adults on the autistic spectrum, and also other interested parties, have come to believe, that this focus on the problems facing young autistic children has resulted in limiting funding for research, and treatment options for adults with autism.

Within the medical community many consider autism to be essentially incurable, or at the very least, to have continuing life-long effects. Meanwhile, judging by the large amount of material on the Internet and elsewhere, many autistic spectrum adults, as well as their neurotypical (non-autistic) allies in the autism rights movement do not consider autism to be a disorder, but simply a different way of perceiving and behaving. These people believe that at least some of the difficulties encountered by the autistic community may just be a result of prejudice, as well as a lack of accommodation from society.

With the knowledge about autism being so limited, and the scientific progress being so slow, nearly all theories about autism are hotly debated. The parents of the autistic child will face a bewildering set of choices, and continued uncertainty about the legitimacy of various diagnoses, prognoses, treatments, and alleged cures.

Some of the controversies surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorders are described below:

Usefulness and accuracy of autism as a diagnosis

The 1994 DSM-IV criteria for the diagnosis of autism are the result of several revisions, and consequently the psychiatric community is divided as to whether the condition should be ordered by severity along a spectrum or categorised into multiple distinct disorders that have similar symptoms. This division is exacerbated by the wide range of conditions comorbid to autism spectrum disorders. Research and clinical experience suggests that, while autism may appear to manifest itself as a psychiatric disorder, its underlying causes are neurological. Pervasive Developmental Disorders, or PDD, has emerged as an catch-all term used to describe the a group of disorders which includes autism.

A diagnosis of autism is further complicated by the fact that there is no definitive test for autism, this is due in part to the significantly different symptoms within the people with autistic traits, as well as a general lack of knowledge about the etiology of Autism. Those with Asperger Syndrome may be highly functional cognitively but lack 'social' skills, whereas others with Autism may be non-verbal as well as lacking in elementary life skills. Some autistic people are considered to be mentally retarded, having low IQs, while some others have been ultimately found to have average or above average intelligence. A minority of people with autism even have narrow, but exceptional autistic savant abilities.

This is not only an academic issue - treatment strategies and choices will be based upon the definitions of what needs to be changed. Different treatment approaches can have widely differing outcomes, depending on how well the treatment plan is laid out for each individual person. As an example, some parents have claimed that their children have recovered from Autism using only behavioral approaches, while some go on to credit medical intervention as the best method for improvement, still others will report little or no progress at all after trying many different approaches. Occasionally, parents claim their autistic children have simply "grown out of it".

There are also those (primarily those on the autistic spectrum themselves) who reject the premise that autism is necessarily a disorder that should be cured. In their view, a diagnosis can sometimes result from a judgment of non-conformity that is followed by efforts to correct what are essentially personality traits.

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For more information about autism and the autistic community be sure to check out the resources available at answers-about-autism.

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