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Dr. Mina Dulcan, child and adolescent psychiatry chief at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital, said Aspies' opposition "is not really a medical question, it's an identity question."
"It would be just like if you were a student at MIT. You might not want to be lumped with somebody in the community college," said Dulcan who supports the diagnostic change.
"One of the characteristics of people with Asperger's is that they're very resistant to change," Dulcan added. The change "makes scientific sense. I'm sorry if it hurts people's feelings," she said.
Harold Doherty, a New Brunswick lawyer whose 13-year-old son has severe autism, opposes the proposed change for a different reason. He says the public perception of autism is skewed by success stories -- the high-functioning "brainiac" kids who thrive despite their disability.
Doherty says people don't want to think about children like his son, Conor, who will never be able to function on his own. The revision would only skew the perception further, leading doctors and researchers to focus more on mild forms, he said.
It's not clear whether the change would affect autistic kids' access to special services.
But Kelli Gibson of Battle Creek, Mich., whose four sons have different forms of autism, thinks it would. She says the revision could make services now designated just for kids with an "autism" diagnosis available to less severely affected kids -- including those with Asperger's and a variation called pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified.
Also, Gibson said, she'd no longer have to use four different terms to describe her boys.
"Hallelujah! Let's just put them all in the same category and be done with it," Gibson said.
On the Net:
Proposed changes: http://www.DSM5.org/
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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