Monday, May 27, 2013

CBC News Misrepresents Autism By Omitting Any Reference to Intellectual Disability

In "The  new definition of autism" CBC News provides detailed descriptions of autism as represented by the five pervasive developmental  disorders in the DSM-IV and the Autism Spectrum Disorder in the now published DSM5.  With one major exception the article is a good summary of autism disorders pre and post DSM5. On another positive note the article expressly references ABA/IEBI as the primary evidence based intervention for autism treatment.  The major exception to this otherwise balanced, thorough article is the failure to mention, while describing conditions commonly associated with autism,  the substantial numbers of  persons with autism who also have an intellectual disability:

"What are some of the symptoms of ASD?

There is no single symptom that would lead to a diagnosis of autism. But someone who shows a number of the following characteristics and behaviours would likely be diagnosed with an ASD:
  • Shows no interest in other people
  • May be interested in people, but does not know how to talk, interact with or relate to them
  • Has difficulty initiating and maintaining a conversation.
  • Is slow developing speech and language skills, which may begin to develop and then be lost, or may never develop fully.
  • Has difficulty interpreting non-verbal communication such as social distance cues, or the use of gestures and facial cues, like smiles, that most of us take for granted.
  • Repeats ritualistic actions such as spinning, rocking, staring, finger flapping, and hitting oneself.
  • Has restricted interests and seemingly odd habits, like focusing obsessively on only one thing, idea or activity.
As well, people with ASD may have secondary problems such as:
  • Neurological disorders including epilepsy.
  • Gastro-intestinal problems.
  • Fine and gross motor deficits.
  • Anxiety and depression.
Children with ASD develop motor, language, cognitive and social skills at different rates from other children their age. For instance, they may be very good at solving math problems but have great difficulty making friends or talking."
The only reference to intellectual or cognitive disabilities in the CBC News article is in the last paragraph above which implies that cognitive skills may develop at different rates in conjunction with other skills and immediately mentions possible strengths such as solving math problems.  This is not by any means a clear and accurate representation of the intellectual disability that is present in large numbers of persons with autism. 
The CDC in the United States has estimated the numbers of persons across the autism spectrum who also have intellectual disability in the range of 41-44%:
  • Data show a similar proportion of children with an ASD also had signs of intellectual disability than in the past, averaging 44% in 2004 and 41% in 2006.
The CDC estimates are consistent with other estimates of the "co-morbidity" of autism and intellectual disability that I have posted links to on this site.

There is no legitimate reason to ignore the large numbers of persons with autism disorders who also have intellectual disabilities.  It is a relationship that should be explored and studied (La Malfa)  not hidden  and stigmatized.


farmwifetwo said...

I'm not convinced they all have ID, even the severe ones. Look at Russ' scores. Yes, the verbal testing is down in the 60's but his non-verbal score last month came back at age 15 (he's 11). I still don't have the paperwork - not until the meeting in June - but combined they bring him back up to borderline - 77.

Which more than proves that the expressive language issues, the social issues, the stimming/flapping, sensory, the LD's, the "autism" is causing the ID scores. Which is why instead of presuming a need to "train" (ABA), instead the need to "teach to learn on one's own" is the most important still they should be learning instead. Russ, is a fiddler... his Teacher taught them how to find information on the computer... he's taken that skill and run with it. To the point he's now in Gr 6 computers as of the first of May.

Sorry... it'll be a cold day in.... before my kid returns to ABA even though I can get Speech for free. They told me it could not be done, they take over, they don't listen, they cared only for their "program" and not Russ' needs. I'll never recommend the program.

Unknown said...

FW2 thank you for expressing your opinion based on your son.

The figures I provided showing 41-44% of persons with autism spectrum disorder also have intellectual disability are taken directly from the US CDC web site. They are consistent with Canadian Psychological Association figures submitted to a Canadian Senate Committee examining autism which indicated that approximately 70% of persons with classic autism have intellectual disability.

With respect to ABA, again, there are multiple credible studies and reviews all of which point to ABA as the ONLY evidence based effective intervention for autism.

Unknown said...

I agree Roger. Overall a good article EXCEPT for the failure to mention the substantial numbers of persons with ASD and ID.

The Mound of Sound said...

It's the CBC, not a medical digest.

Unknown said...

Mound of Sound: The CBC is the most influential media institution in Canada. They have just described and painted a picture of autism for many Canadians including politicians. They did a good job as I stated EXCEPT for the failure to mention the 41-44% of all persons with autism and intellectual disability. Thanks for sharing your mound of insight.