Monday, September 23, 2013

Spotting the difference: Introverted behavior v. autism

Image by Walt Stoneburner.
Like many parents, I think about my childhood and how it compare's to my son's.

Looking back, I can't recall any of my classmates being diagnosed as autistic or as having any other mental disorder. Yes, there were children who were slower learners and ones who acted strangely, but none of them were ever talked about as having a disorder.

Of course, today, most parents worry about learning disorders and diagnosing autism early so they can make adjustments to help their child better adapt to a world that they don't fully understand. That's why it is so surprising to read that a 2007 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study found that more than 30 percent of children diagnosed as autistic at age two no longer fit the diagnosis at age four. 

That's a lot of misdiagnosis, a lot of sleepless nights filled with worry for parents and a lot of problems with a system that is supposed to help children. Maybe we should all be taking a step back and comparing our child's behavior to a larger scale to find out if there is really a disorder or if the behavior is just a part of growing up.


  1. I have really debated commenting on this.

    Misdiagnosis happens for every disorder/illness. That doesn't mean they are any less real. When it comes to mental disorders it becomes harder to diagnose because the circumstances are subjective. Depression is misdiagnosed in 25% of people. Cancer holds the record for being the most commonly misdiagnosed illness. Both are still very real.

    Yes, the rate of diagnosis of ASD has skyrocketed. It most likely is a mixture of awareness and misdiagnosis. Like most mental disorders, we still don't know very much about it. And yes, there is a definite difference between ASD and introversion.

    Autism has been a diagnosed disorder since the early 1900's. For the longest time it was mistaken as child schizophrenia. So up until the 60's those children were institutionalized. And the treatment for them was horrid. Therapy consisted of things like LSD and shock treatment.

    During the 80's-90's behavioral therapy broke through and those kids began to attend special schools.

    Mainstreaming didn't happen until 1997, and really didn't start to take a strong effect until 2000. I don't know which year you graduated, but, when inclusion swung into full effect probably has something to do with why you cannot recall any classmates having autism.

    As I said, I debated posting this. Thought provoking post.

    1. I am glad you commented, Stephanie. As parents we don't have all the answers to our children's problems, but it is important to be as educated as possible for our children's sake. As you mentioned, the medical community is discovering new characteristics of child disorders all the time and has made vast improvements in diagnosing and treating them. As parents, it's our job to ask the questions our children can't.