Many parents with children diagnosed with autism are frustrated and in some cases, feel as if they have been victimized by medical professionals. There is no single solution to fixing the problem but there are a few ways to address this issue.
The “high-functioning autism and defiance” is a symptom that has been present in many cases of autism. It can be caused by the misdiagnosis of autism or the child’s refusal to comply with their treatment plan.
Because there are numerous conditions with comparable symptoms to autism, a mistake is conceivable. As the number of persons diagnosed with autism has increased, more people are worried that the disorder is being misdiagnosed.
There is no laboratory test for autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Doctors and experts must examine the actions of young children suspected of being neurodevelopmentally challenged and listen to the concerns of parents and caregivers before they can diagnose autism.
What can make Autism Diagnosis difficult and misdiagnosis possible is that autism spectrum disorder has a wide range of symptoms. Some autistic people have high IQs and live independently. Others have severe developmental disabilities and will likely need some form of supervised care for their entire lives. Still others fall somewhere in between.
The 18-Month Checkup is a comprehensive examination of your health over the course of 18 months
An evaluation by a doctor, beginning as early as their 18-month visit, is the first step towards receiving an autism diagnosis. The doctor will observe and interact with the kid to see how they react to smiles, facial expressions, and other external cues.
The doctor will also inquire whether the kid is sluggish to speak, interact with others, or respond to noises, as well as if there is a family history of autism.
The doctor will specifically inquire whether the kid began smiling at the age of six months, mirroring facial expressions at the age of nine months, and verbalizing (cooing and other baby noises) at the age of twelve months.
The doctor will also inquire about any kind of repetitious or strange behavior, such as the child:
- Making no eye contact.
- When someone attempts to grab their attention, they become unresponsive.
- Excessively sensitive to light, sound, and tactile stimuli.
- You’re having trouble sleeping or digesting your food.
Specialists in Autism
Any of these signs might indicate autism, but the physician will not diagnose the kid; instead, they will send the child to experts. The following are some examples:
- Psychologists who work with children
- Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are those who specialize in helping people
- Occupational therapists are professionals who specialize in the treatment of people with disabilities.
- Pediatricians that specialize in development
- a neurosurgeon
These professionals are educated to examine a kid’s cognitive ability and motor skills, as well as how the youngster accomplishes fundamental activities such as dressing, eating, and going to the toilet.
The kid must match the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, in order to get a positive diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A kid suspected of having autism must fall into at least two of the following criteria, according to the DSM-5 (5th edition):
- Challenges in communication and social interaction (difficulty connecting with other people, making eye contact, understanding social dynamics, or even having a conversation)
- Repetitive and restricted habits (such as rocking back and forth, reacting badly to any changes in routine, repeating phrases when they are stressed, and obsessive levels of interest in a single subject)
Is It Possible That Autism Is Being Misdiagnosed?
As more people become aware of autism and its many manifestations, the number of persons diagnosed with the disorder has increased.
Many persons with autism symptoms were institutionalized as late as the 1980s. According to new study, parents who understand how autism manifests are more likely to seek a diagnosis from an expert than parents who have little or no awareness of the condition.
Knowing someone with ASD, having an autistic family member, or having access to health care and educational materials that explain what autism is and what the symptoms are are the major sources of this information.
There are a variety of different reasons why people may be more aware of autism than they were before. The American Academy of Pediatrics proposed in 2006 that the 18-month autism test be expanded to all children at normal pediatric appointments, not only those with evidence of significant developmental delays.
This might have resulted in diagnoses that experts would have missed otherwise. It may have also raised the risk of misdiagnosis in children who were not autistic.
The Diagnosis Controversy
Some scientists and academics have worried whether the criteria for autism diagnoses have been diluted so much in an effort to broaden the scope of what neurodiversity involves that any kind of neurodiversity, no matter how slight, becomes a potential for an autism diagnosis.
Some activists have applauded this, claiming that as more individuals are recognized with ASD, more people will be able to get therapy and connect with others. However, some opponents believe that this reframe of neurodiversity will result in autism being overdiagnosed.
According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, there may come a time when there is “almost no difference” between persons diagnosed with autism and those who are not. According to the results of a meta-analysis of 11 research, the gap between those with autism and those without autism has narrowed over time, which might be linked to changes in diagnosis techniques.
Another researcher argued that owing to increased understanding of autism and its varied manifestations, the gap between the neurodiverse and neurotypical populations could one day shrink. More support, more accessible health care, less stigma, and more autistic persons feeling empowered to assert their diagnosis and neurodiversity have resulted as a result of this.
Conversely, this could mean that Autism Diagnosis becomes muddier because the medical understanding of the condition is constantly evolving.
Similar Conditions & Diagnosis Errors
Another aspect that may contribute to the high likelihood of autism misdiagnosed is the existence of other illnesses with comparable symptoms, which may create some initial misunderstanding among caregivers and professionals. The following are some examples of such conditions:
- Intelligence or cognitive performance that is below average is referred to as intellectual impairment. People generally take a long time to develop the abilities they require for daily life. This is comparable to how some persons with autism might have delays in their cognitive development.However, intellectual impairment is not the same as autism, which is a kind of neurodevelopmental condition. Even though the two disorders are distinct, there is overlap since some persons with autism may also have intellectual disabilities. Some professionals may mistakenly diagnose autism in a person with an intellectual handicap as a result of this.
- Schizophrenia has been wrongly diagnosed as autism in the past. Because those who have one have a number of cognitive and interpersonal issues with those who have the other, there is a lot of overlap between these two disorders.When compared to a control group, those with schizophrenia problems exhibit higher levels of autistic symptoms, according to some study.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder & Selective Mutism
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and autism are commonly confused because patients exhibit comparable symptoms, such as strange and repetitive behavior. If their routines are upset, they may react badly. People with OCD, on the other hand, seldom encounter difficulties in their communication and social abilities.
Selective mutism is a syndrome in which a kid is unable to communicate and interact with people in certain social situations, but can do so in locations where they feel safe and secure. Rather than a developmental illness like autism, selective mutism is classified as an anxiety disorder.
However, according to the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, there is a “high chance of overlap” between the two diseases. Because of the more quick presentation of symptoms comparable to those seen in selective mutism, this might lead to some youngsters obtaining incorrect autism diagnosis.
APD stands for Avoidant Personality Disorder.
APD stands for Avoidant Personality Disorder. (APD) describes a condition where a person displays a consistent pattern of being incredibly shy and very sensitive to criticism from others. They have a deep feeling of inadequacy and a pathological sensitivity to rejection. This causes them to avoid exposing themselves to that kind of risk in professional, social, and personal situations.
APD is not the same as autism. People with APD need social relationships but are apprehensive about seeking them out for fear of being scared or humiliated.
People with ASD, however, are much less inclined to want social engagements. But the two different conditions have this similar presentation, which is why people who might have APD stands for Avoidant Personality Disorder. might get a diagnosis of autism.
Attachment Disorder with Reactions
Attachment Disorder with Reactions is a rare condition where an infant or young child does not establish any healthy attachments with their parents or caregivers. This can happen in households where the child’s primal needs for comfort and affection are not met. But it can also happen in situations where the caregivers try to offer caring, stable engagements with the child.
Attachment Disorder with Reactions is more typically found in children who grew up in disruptive environments or had to move around a lot. In rare cases, in situations where parents and caregivers are loving and attentive, the children do not respond to overtures of comfort and can even appear fearful of their parents or caregivers for no discernible reason.
This is an uncommon illness that has striking resemblances to autism, to the point that an expert may mistakenly believe ASD is the proper diagnosis. If the youngster does not exhibit other common ASD symptoms (such as stimming or an excessive interest in a single activity), this might be another example of autism misdiagnosis.
“The reasons not to get autism diagnosis” is a blog post that discusses possible explanations for misdiagnosis of autism. It also includes information about how to help your loved one with their condition.
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Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.