The End of an Epidemic?

Why a proposed new definition of autism has parents and advocates worried

For a change that's intended to clarify, proposed revisions to the official definition of autism may do the opposite. More than a year before a new definition is expected to appear in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--the standard mental-health reference used by psychiatrists and insurers--a scientific catfight has erupted over the best way to recategorize the spectrum of symptoms that comprise autism disorders. Many experts say the proposed definition, which is still being assessed, will narrow the criteria for autism. The question is, How much?

The stakes are very high: everything from research funding,...

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