Why No One is Talking About the Possible Overdiagnosis of Autism

With the latest CDC figures out, it appears autism is now appearing in about 1 in 68 children in the United States. The disorder -- now officially known as autism spectrum disorder -- is being diagnosed at a rate that represents a 30 percent increase from 1 in 88 two years ago.

What's amazing to me is that I couldn't find a single media report that floated the idea that this increase represents an overdiagnosis of the disorder. While "overdiagnosis" seems to be the first thing suggested when the topic is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder's (ADHD) huge jump in diagnoses over the past two decades, it's not mentioned in any description of autism's increase.

Why the double-standard?

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Co-Parenting with a Partner on the Autism Spectrum

With as many as 1.5 million Americans having some form of autism, including milder variants such as what used to be called Asperger Syndrome, many of those on the autism spectrum are also parents. What are the challenges associated with co-parenting with an 'Aspie' partner?

When you have a family member on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, it can be the ordinary things that cause life to grind to a halt. Ordinary things, such as: getting enough sleep; asking your spouse to pick up a child from soccer practice; or having a little family chitchat at the dining table.

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Sandy Hook: Administration Promises $100 Million in Mental Health Funding, But There’s a Few Problems

From 2009 until 2013, states have cut more than $4.35 billion from mental health funding for treatment and related services for those most in need in America. Yes, you read that right -- $4.35 billion. In tough times, states always turn to cutting social services first.

The message states seem to be sending is, "Hey, we know you're already poor, so if we cut services to you, well, how much worse could your life be?"

So it comes as a relief -- well, a little relief -- that the White House announced the rejiggering of some budgets to free up $100 million in funding of mental health services to states.

Is this enough of a response -- or even the right response -- to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre?

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Has Asperger’s Gone Away?

With anything that changes, especially an important reference manual, people are going to be confused about what those changes actually mean. Nowhere is this more evident than in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

As we noted yesterday, the final revision was approved for publication. The DSM-5 is how clinicians and researchers diagnose mental disorders in the United States. A common language is especially important when conducting research, to ensure treatments are actually working for the symptoms people have.

One of the changes getting a lot of attention is the "doing away" of Asperger's Syndrome. But to be clear -- Asperger's isn't being dropped from the DSM-5. It's simply being merged and renamed, to better reflect a consensus of our scientific knowledge on the disorder as one form of the new "autism spectrum disorder" diagnosis.

So while the term, "Asperger's" is going away, the actual diagnosis -- you know, the thing that actually matters -- is not.

But you wouldn't know it reading some of the mainstream media's reporting on this concern.

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The Benefits of Positive Behavior Support

All individuals have the right to aspire toward their own personal goals and desires. At times, mental health conditions and problem behaviors, such as aggression or property destruction, can create barriers to reaching those goals.

Fortunately, a number of treatment practices exist that can assist an individual in adopting positive behaviors. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a mental health condition and has problem behaviors, consider talking to a mental health provider about the benefits of Positive Behavior Support (PBS).

What is PBS?

Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is a philosophy for helping individuals whose problem behaviors are barriers to reaching their goals. It is based on the well-researched science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). A key component is understanding that behaviors occur for a reason and can be predicted by knowing what happens before and after those behaviors.

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An Early Start for Kids with Autism: 5 Tips for Parents

Children with autism are often remarkably unaware of the meaning of other people's nonverbal communications.

It is not uncommon to see a young child with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) who does not understand the "give me" gesture of an open hand or the meaning of a point. Your child may not understand the significance of an angry or sad face on another person.

Sometimes people interpret the child's lack of interest or response to others' expressions as a lack of cooperation, but children with ASD just don't understand. How can you teach your child to pay attention to people and recognize what their body language means?

Here are three easy steps:

Step 1: Exaggerate your gestures.
Step 2: Add predictable steps.
Step 3: Provide needed help.

And here are five simple exercises you and your young child can do today to help with paying attention to people and better understanding body language.

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Love Hormone Helps Kids With Autism

This guest article from YourTango was written by Frank Medlar.

Navigating social situations can be difficult for anyone, but for people on the autism spectrum, it's not just difficult -- it's a minefield.

People with autism or Asperger's don't pick up on social clues that seem obvious to most people. There are unwritten social rules that they can't fathom. Things blow up on them when they have no idea what they've done wrong.

More from YourTango: 7 Amazing Ways Love Transforms Your Brain

To put it mildly, that's stressful.

High anxiety is often the silent partner of people with autism, even those who are high-functioning. That anxiety can be paralyzing in social situations. Not just deer-in-the-headlights frozen, but full-on engulfed in fear. For people with autism, it compounds their already difficult challenges.

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Anxiety and Panic

DSM Says No to Anxiety-Depressive Syndrome, Yes to Autism Revisions

Demonstrating that the folks who are revising the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) are listening to the scientific data, they have nixed two new proposed diagnoses -- anxiety-depressive syndrome and attenuated psychosis syndrome. The changes were announced this week at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, the organization largely responsible for updating the reference manual used by health and mental health professionals to make diagnoses.

The critics were worried that these new diagnoses would label millions of Americans with a mental disorder -- and offering them subsequent treatment -- that today wouldn't qualify for such diagnosis or treatment.

For instance, while anxiety mixed with depression is actually quite commonly seen in the wild of clinical practices, there is no specific diagnosis for this mixed mood state. The DSM-5 sought to correct this problem -- that clinicians are treating millions for a problem the DSM says doesn't technically exist. But critics worried the new criteria were too lax and might result in over-diagnosis.

The same was true for attenuated psychosis syndrome. The proposed diagnosis was an effort to get children and young adults into treatment sooner for experiencing weird thoughts or hallucinations. But people worried that it would lead to unnecessary treatment of kids for a potentially temporary problem.

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Benjamin Nugent Believes He Had Asperger Syndrome — According to His Mom

Benjamin Nugent believes he had Asperger's Syndrome (a milder form of austim).

Who made this diagnosis? His mom.

His mom was so convinced that her then 17-year-old teenage son had this disorder, she put in him in an educational video about Asperger's. Asperger's is usually diagnosed in childhood or as a young teenager, and is characterized by a severe degree of social impairment, isolation, and what others might see as eccentric behavior.

While I commend Mr. Nugent for sharing his story with the world, I have to really question his understanding of how mental disorders are diagnosed by mental health clinicians.

Here's his story...

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Is Anyone Normal Today?

Take a minute and answer this question: Is anyone really normal today?

I mean, even those who claim they are normal may, in fact, be the most neurotic among us, swimming with a nice pair of scuba fins down the river of Denial. Having my psychiatric file published online and in print for public viewing, I get to hear my share of dirty secrets—weird obsessions, family dysfunction, or disguised addiction—that are kept concealed from everyone but a self-professed neurotic and maybe a shrink.

“Why are there so many disorders today?” Those seven words, or a variation of them, surface a few times a week. And my take on this query is so complex that, to avoid sounding like my grad school professors making an erudite case that fails to communicate anything to average folks like me, I often shrug my shoulders and move on to a conversation about dessert. Now that I can talk about all day.

Here’s the abridged edition of my guess as to why we mark up more pages of the DSM-IV today than, say, a century ago (even though the DSM-IV had yet to be born).

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6 Tips for Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in College

As Autism Awareness month continues, April is a time of transition for many high school seniors, as they learn what colleges and universities they got into. So it seems like an ideal time to talk about autism and college, and some tips to help with the transition.

The excerpt below is from the book, Living Well on the Spectrum by author Valerie L. Gaus, Ph.D. The book is a self-help book that helps a person with an autism spectrum disorder identify life goals and the steps needed to achieve them.

Read on for the excerpt...

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