New Definition of Autism

By WEEK Producer

New Definition of Autism

January 20, 2012 Updated Jan 20, 2012 at 2:12 PM CDT

ARLINGTON, Va. -- A new definition of autism could dramatically reduce the number of people diagnosed with the disorder and cut funding for educational programs and government support.

Experts at the American Psychiatric Association are revising the definition of autism, making it more difficult to qualify for the condition.

Under current criteria, patients must exhibit at least 6 of 12 behaviors. The new criteria would require patients to show 3 deficits in social interaction and communication and at least 2 repetitive behaviors.

Experts say people with high-functioning forms of the condition will no longer be diagnosed with autism, which could affect their ability to qualify for government aid.

The proposed changes would combine all forms of autism, including Asperger's, under one umbrella.

The preliminary report was presented Thursday. A broader analysis is expected in the fall.

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