There are a lot of mental conditions doctors have to keep track of and treat when they surface in patients. Did you ever wonder how they manage to keep it all straight? It’s called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, put out by the American Psychiatric Association.

Last year the APA issued what amounts to the fifth edition — the DSM-5. Among the changes made was a tightening of the criteria for diagnosing autism in children. That has prompted concerns from some mental health advocates some children who really need support could be stripped of their resources.

Now, a new study suggests that it may already be happening.

It may come as no surprise that autism is among those conditions that can qualify an individual for Social Security disability benefits. Obtaining those benefits is often difficult, making it advisable to be working with an experienced attorney. And the implications of this new study suggest the process isn’t likely to get any easier.

According to the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if the guidelines in the DSM-5 had been in force in 2008, the rate of autism diagnoses in children would be one in 100. But the current rate as estimated by the CDC, is about one in 88 children.

The CDC study’s author says the clear trend in diagnosing autism spectrum disorders has been one of steady increase. But he says in applying the new criteria to some 6,600 diagnosed patients, researchers found that 19 percent of them would not have made the cut.

The researcher says it’s not clear yet whether the DSM-5 criteria are having any effect yet. But autism activists say they see some children already being reclassified out of their autism diagnosis and are faced with the possibility of losing services.

Officials with the group Autism Speaks say it’s too early to say anything more definitive than that, but they say it’s clear the DSM-5 changes are cause for concern. 

Source: Health, “New Diagnosis Rules Could Lead to Drop in Autism Numbers,” Brenda Goodman, HealthDay, Jan. 24, 2014