Autism overdiagnosed?

Mar 2012
57,883
39,438
New Hampshire
#1
Autism has become so overdiagnosed that within five to 10 years there could be almost no difference between groups of people who have been diagnosed with the condition and those who haven't, a Canadian researcher warns following the publication of a new review.

A new meta-analysis published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry that analyzed 11 previous major studies carried out since 1966 found that the profiles of individuals diagnosed with autism have become progressively less different from those of the general population.

Laurent Mottron, a research psychiatrist at the mental health unit of Montreal's Rivière-des-Prairies Hospital and one of the study's authors, said the gap could soon narrow to nothing. "Autistic people we test now are less and less different than typical people — really less and less, to the point where if the trend continues, we won't be able to find the least difference within five or 10 years," he said in an interview.

Mottron said the problem is that the criteria have shifted to the point where a diagnosis could become nearly meaningless.

Mottron said the criteria for a diagnosis have become "trivial," including a child's lack of friends or a dislike of haircuts or tags on clothing. He said the research points to a rampant problem of overdiagnosis that he blames on schools, doctors and parents alike. He goes so far as to suggest that a diagnosis can work in a school's or parent's best interest by making them eligible for extra help and funding that they may otherwise not receive.

Mottron acknowledged that the situation is complicated because mild forms of autism do exist. However, he noted that having certain autistic traits isn't the same as having autism and said it's "fundamental" for medical professionals to move beyond a simple checklist of symptoms before issuing a diagnosis.

He said the cost of specialized services for autism are high, and too many diagnosed children can spread resources too thin, meaning those who need them most don't get enough.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/autism-overdiagnosis-1.5255878
 

HCProf

Council Hall
Sep 2014
28,797
18,230
USA
#2
Yes, yes and yes! I think spectrum diagnoses these days have replaced ADD. I see this all the time. I know a little boy who is the grandson of one of my friends. He is 2 and does not talk. His pediatrician diagnosed him with autism so he can received services for speech therapy. They needed the diagnosis for the services to be approved. Now this little, smart boy will be labeled for life in the school system. My nephew did not talk until he was 4. He is 46 now...and the spectrum was not looked at as closely back then. He did not talk because he had nothing to say and did not want to. The more my Mom, his Mom, and our grandmother tried to make him talk...the more stubborn he become. LOL When he started talking, you could not make him stop. Today, he is a successful family man.

I think we expect more from small children today than we used to. Kids are individuals and they will grow at their own pace.
 
Mar 2012
57,883
39,438
New Hampshire
#3
Yes, yes and yes! I think spectrum diagnoses these days have replaced ADD. I see this all the time. I know a little boy who is the grandson of one of my friends. He is 2 and does not talk. His pediatrician diagnosed him with autism so he can received services for speech therapy. They needed the diagnosis for the services to be approved. Now this little, smart boy will be labeled for life in the school system. My nephew did not talk until he was 4. He is 46 now...and the spectrum was not looked at as closely back then. He did not talk because he had nothing to say and did not want to. The more my Mom, his Mom, and our grandmother tried to make him talk...the more stubborn he become. LOL When he started talking, you could not make him stop. Today, he is a successful family man.

I think we expect more from small children today than we used to. Kids are individuals and they will grow at their own pace.
Agree. Saw so many "labeled" as kids and now they are normal adults. A lot of kids wont walk or talk for a long time. My brother didnt talk until he was 4. Doctor actually told my parents "he will talk when he is ready." He did. He jokes now and says "I just had nothing to say." It is a lot like ADD. Friends of ours took their son to the doctor and demanded meds for his hyper behavior. He went on them and they messed him up. But they liked it because he was calm. His grandparents actually finally convinced them to stop the meds and he ended up getting into sports and becoming an all State athlete. I think all these rules as to what makes us "normal" are bunk. We are all very different.
 

HCProf

Council Hall
Sep 2014
28,797
18,230
USA
#4
Agree. Saw so many "labeled" as kids and now they are normal adults. A lot of kids wont walk or talk for a long time. My brother didnt talk until he was 4. Doctor actually told my parents "he will talk when he is ready." He did. He jokes now and says "I just had nothing to say." It is a lot like ADD. Friends of ours took their son to the doctor and demanded meds for his hyper behavior. He went on them and they messed him up. But they liked it because he was calm. His grandparents actually finally convinced them to stop the meds and he ended up getting into sports and becoming an all State athlete. I think all these rules as to what makes us "normal" are bunk. We are all very different.
You should see what ADD drugs did to my friends son....who is 27 now. She was forced by his elementary school to put him on ADD drugs or he could not return to class. He was hyper but to me he seemed like my husband...who was kind of a little social terror in grade school. Not dangerous, but was stimulated by everything but what he should be focused on. My friends pediatrician dosed her son high...around the time he did not want to go to school anymore and it was a fight every morning. Today, her son is very, very, small for an adult male. The drugs stunted his growth. He is only about 5'2" and weighs about 110 pounds. Her other son is over 6 foot and weighs about 200 pounds. She is average size and their Dad is 6 foot as well. It is strange talking to her adult son because he looks like a child with a full beard.
 

HayJenn

Moderator
Jul 2014
70,089
60,089
CA
#5
Yes, yes and yes! I think spectrum diagnoses these days have replaced ADD. I see this all the time. I know a little boy who is the grandson of one of my friends. He is 2 and does not talk. His pediatrician diagnosed him with autism so he can received services for speech therapy. They needed the diagnosis for the services to be approved. Now this little, smart boy will be labeled for life in the school system. My nephew did not talk until he was 4. He is 46 now...and the spectrum was not looked at as closely back then. He did not talk because he had nothing to say and did not want to. The more my Mom, his Mom, and our grandmother tried to make him talk...the more stubborn he become. LOL When he started talking, you could not make him stop. Today, he is a successful family man.

I think we expect more from small children today than we used to. Kids are individuals and they will grow at their own pace.
My son has Asberger's. But he is really high functioning.. He did get a lot of help through his EPS at all his schools (he did not talk until he was 2 years old either)., I was more than fine with him being "labeled" as on the spectrum. Especially when it came to high school and in conjunction with his counselor, helped him pick the teachers they thought were best suited for him.

Some companies now actively recruit people on the spectrum, because they have a lot of different strengths.


Agree with you though on the ADD thing. That was his first "diagnosis" but for some reason, we are parents, just knew that was wrong. At least back then - an ADD was sometimes "confused" with bein on the spectrum

We waited for another year and turns out we were right.

I think the spike we have seen in the last 10 years or so, is because having Autism is not considered "shameful" anymore. And when it was, lots of parents did not take their kids to the doctor because of the "label" Lots more info and resources now and I think most parents don't see it a "bad" thing anymore - but instead,are getting their kids they help that they need.
 

HCProf

Council Hall
Sep 2014
28,797
18,230
USA
#6
My son has Asberger's. But he is really high functioning.. He did get a lot of help through his EPS at all his schools (he did not talk until he was 2 years old either)., I was more than fine with him being "labeled" as on the spectrum. Especially when it came to high school and in conjunction with his counselor, helped him pick the teachers they thought were best suited for him.

Some companies now actively recruit people on the spectrum, because they have a lot of different strengths.


Agree with you though on the ADD thing. That was his first "diagnosis" but for some reason, we are parents, just knew that was wrong. At least back then - an ADD was sometimes "confused" with bein on the spectrum

We waited for another year and turns out we were right.

I think the spike we have seen in the last 10 years or so, is because having Autism is not considered "shameful" anymore. And when it was, lots of parents did not take their kids to the doctor because of the "label" Lots more info and resources now and I think most parents don't see it a "bad" thing anymore - but instead,are getting their kids they help that they need.
I see your point...but the problem I have with labels...it can destroy their self esteem as adults for some. I have many college students who come to me on the first day of class telling me that they have a learning disability, some say spectrum, some don't clarify. At first, I would jump into action and coddle and basically smother them with my attention because I thought they might be at risk and I hate to fail students. Every time they fooled me and because some of my best students academically. I never had a problem with them behavior wise. They weren't being deceitful...but their low self esteem was glaringly obvious. Today, when they approach me...I just smile and say "we will see" and most of the time they thrive.

Autism or spectrum disordes are nothing to be ashamed about but it really depends on their home environment and support system there. Parents sometimes are ashamed that their child is not what they consider perfect and it depends on which end of the spectrum they are one. I know at least two couples who have divorced because the Father could not stand his own kid and could not take it.

I know your son is very smart. He graduated quickly from a top college. If you don't mind, what were his symptoms or behaviors that led to his diagnosis? I am curious. I had one student who had Aspergers. She was sweet, smart but a little sensitive to external stimuli. I always thought she had PMS. :) It was later on, another teacher told me she had Aspergers. I would have never guessed that.
 

HayJenn

Moderator
Jul 2014
70,089
60,089
CA
#7
I see your point...but the problem I have with labels...it can destroy their self esteem as adults for some. I have many college students who come to me on the first day of class telling me that they have a learning disability, some say spectrum, some don't clarify. At first, I would jump into action and coddle and basically smother them with my attention because I thought they might be at risk and I hate to fail students. Every time they fooled me and because some of my best students academically. I never had a problem with them behavior wise. They weren't being deceitful...but their low self esteem was glaringly obvious. Today, when they approach me...I just smile and say "we will see" and most of the time they thrive.

Autism or spectrum disordes are nothing to be ashamed about but it really depends on their home environment and support system there. Parents sometimes are ashamed that their child is not what they consider perfect and it depends on which end of the spectrum they are one. I know at least two couples who have divorced because the Father could not stand his own kid and could not take it.

I know your son is very smart. He graduated quickly from a top college. If you don't mind, what were his symptoms or behaviors that led to his diagnosis? I am curious. I had one student who had Aspergers. She was sweet, smart but a little sensitive to external stimuli. I always thought she had PMS. :) It was later on, another teacher told me she had Aspergers. I would have never guessed that.
He was late to walk and talk, unlike his sister. So at about 2 years old, we knew something was "off" He was also super chill as a baby - barely cried (which was a dream for us, but also another warning sign). We enrolled in a Country program when he was about 3 - got speech therapy and in-home visits. During his k-12 years, he was given the opportunity to take more time for tests, sit at the front of the classroom. By high school, the only accommodation he needed was to match teachers who he would do well with.

I will never forget talking to his English teacher whose son played water polo with my son. He mentioned to me that my son had a few "quirks". Nothing bad, but like asking for clear instructions, etc. When I told him he has Asberger's he was surprised.

As time when on, lots of his "quirks" just faded away. He still has a few of them, but I don't care. Being so analytical, he never does anything "stupid". Like get drunk or hang out with "sketchy" people. I don't think a lot of parents out there can say they never really worried about their son or daughter when they were in HS. I was one of the lucky ones.
 
Jul 2018
1,127
1,331
North Carolina
#8
Agree. Saw so many "labeled" as kids and now they are normal adults. A lot of kids wont walk or talk for a long time. My brother didnt talk until he was 4. Doctor actually told my parents "he will talk when he is ready." He did. He jokes now and says "I just had nothing to say." It is a lot like ADD. Friends of ours took their son to the doctor and demanded meds for his hyper behavior. He went on them and they messed him up. But they liked it because he was calm. His grandparents actually finally convinced them to stop the meds and he ended up getting into sports and becoming an all State athlete. I think all these rules as to what makes us "normal" are bunk. We are all very different.
Great point(s). My youngest son didn't start talking well until about 4 years old, and this did send up a "red flag" with his pediatrician. I tried to explain to her that our youngest son was growing up in a multilingual home, and like his older brother before him, was maybe a little 'delayed' on his speech. It's been the same for all our kids. They are a little slow to talk until after age three or four, then they start Gibber / jabbering like crazy LOL. Maybe as parents we are expecting too much, too soon from our kids sometimes, and yes I have been there done that, so I do get it.

Giving kids drugs in many cases is not necessary IMHO, and I believe it can cause more harm than good at times. I think most kids just need an outlet. Sports is a great avenue for kids to work out some of that hyper activeness, and also equally important (especially with boys), help curb some of that aggression. It also allows for more social interaction, which builds camaraderie among ones peers. I have friends to this day from my earliest days of grade school due to sports.
My father was an avid basketball fan, and he got me started with that awesome sport when I was just a little half pint. That motivated me to start playing organized basketball when I was around 12 years old or so. It helped me immensely in grade / high school because you had to keep at least a C average, or you couldn't play, and I was one of those kids who, to put it mildly, lacked motivation to do well in my studies. I heavily influenced my kids to play sports early on because I believe in the many benefits it provides.

My father once asked me a profound question (IMO) when my kids were very young. He asked, "Why do you expect your kids to act like adults? I thought about that for a moment or two, and I said, "That's a awesome question, and great point Dad". He then said, "Son, let kids be kids". Some of the best advice the old man ever gave me.
 

Rasselas

Former Staff
Feb 2010
70,986
47,850
USA
#9
The OP in this thread is confusing to me. How can you diagnose a child with autism before age 2.5 or 3? My three children are all on the spectrum, but none of them was diagnosed by a school. It was always a pediatric psychologist (usually with the help of a pediatrician) and involved several hours of observation. There are tests that can be done with slightly older children than simply can't be done with younger kids. I wouldn't trust any diagnosis not performed in this intensive sort of way. Not talking isn't a reason to diagnose someone with autism.
 

Sparta

Former Staff
Aug 2006
22,615
13,348
Connecticut
#10
A diagnosis is the 1st step in receiving tax payer funded support for a developmentally challenged child, so there is incentive for a diagnosis. I don't want to speak for systems other than my own, I'm sure some of you have a nuclear power plant in your neighborhood shouldering your burden, but here special education accounts for 60% of our budget. Public schools have become assisted living facilities, sometimes I feel like my kids are just doing time there.
 

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