A May 23 article by the Los Angeles Times piqued my interest the other day. It discussed some results of the National Health Interview Survey that suggests that the prevalence of childhood developmental disabilities has increased over the last 10 years. The Times piece points out that the a majority of the increase came from cases of autism and ADHD. These increases, as suggested by the article, could potentially be due to changes in the way these two are diagnosed or their being over-diagnosed.
For a while, I have felt that both of these disorders have been the subject to false diagnosis. Often, I’ve seen parents use ADHD and autism as an excuse for misbehaving children, even when the child clearly does not meet the criteria listed in the DSM-IV. ADHD, in particular, seems to be an oft used catch-all for many different types of unruly behavior. Unfortunately, this has the effect of lessening the impact of these disorders by making them little more than excuses for bad behavior. Even among some of my peers, I’ve heard autism and ADHD reduced to little more than a label placed on the socially awkward and absent-minded, respectively.
Luckily, with the DSM-V on the horizon, some of this should change. The diagnostic criteria for both ADHD and autism are under review, and with years of scientific study since the last addition, we’re sure to get a better, clearer picture of the disorders. At the very least, this should help stymie some of the negative associations with autism and ADHD and make false diagnosis less prevalent.
For more, check out: ADHD, autism fuel developmental disabilities increase – Los Angeles Times.