Proposed changes to the official diagnosis of autism will not reduce the proportion of children found to have it as steeply as many have feared, scientists reported on Tuesday, in an analysis that contradicts several previous studies.
Earlier research had estimated that 45 percent or more of children currently on the “autism spectrum” would not qualify under a new definition now being refined by psychiatric researchers — a finding that generated widespread anxiety among parents who rely on state-financed services for their children. The new report, posted online Tuesday by The American Journal of Psychiatry, concluded that the number who would be excluded is closer to 10 percent.
The finding may soothe the anxieties of some parents, but will not likely settle the debate over the effect of the new diagnosis.
All sides agree that the proposed criteria are narrower and will likely result in fewer diagnoses of autism, but until doctors begin using the new definition widely, the predictions of its effect are just that: predictions.