Thursday, November 30, 2006

Clinic Notes: Autism as a Neurological Disorder vs. Autistic Behavior

Presently we are analyzing data from over 2500 surveys from mothers of children diagnosed with autism and mothers of normally developing children. The survey, which can be found at, has a variety of pre and post-natal questions. In the biographical portion of the survey we ask mothers to give us their child's diagnosis. We thought we would get several different diagnostic labels such as autism, PDD-NOS, or Asperger's. Instead we have so many diagnostic labels that we are not sure how to proceed. We have many comorbid diagnoses such as Down's syndrome and autism, Fragile X syndrome and autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, with and without comorbid disorders, and countless more. Physicians or psychologist made all of these diagnoses. There are many problems in diagnosing autism and I certainly don't have the answer for all of the problems. But I think much of the confusion is caused by professionals who talk of atism as a neurological disorder and professionals, sometime the same professionals, who talk about autistic behaviors such as self-stim, OCD, sensory issues, etc. These "autistic behaviors" can be seen in a wide variety of neurological disorders. Before we can do definitive research in autism we need to be clear on what we are talking about when we make a diagnosis.


mcewen said...

When do you think DSM will be overhauled?
Best wishes

Dr. Brown said...

I don't know when or if DSM will be overhauled. DSM is a compromise among committee members and is more political than scientific in my view.

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