From The Daily Telegraph, July 20, 2011
- Students with autism up 165 per cent over eight years
- Rates of other mental health diagnoses up by 75
- Autism attracts more funding, more assistance
SOME parents and doctors are colluding to deliberately misdiagnose school children as autistic so they can get help for other problems, a medical professional claims.
Parents are seeking the autism "label" because funding for the condition has increased and more assistance is available for autism than for other conditions.
The practice may partly explain a huge rise in the number of public school students with autism - up by 165 per cent over the past eight years.
Autism is defined as a neural development disorder and is often characterised by impaired social interaction and communication as well as repetitive and restricted behaviours.
Rates of other mental health diagnoses have increased by 75 per cent since 2003, according to the state government's submission to a federal review of funding for schooling.
Clinical psychologist and manager of diagnostic assessment services at Autism Spectrum Australia Vicki Gibbs said there were various reasons for the surge in the number of children diagnosed with autism.
"The most obvious is that people are more aware of it than before and people are also more aware of the more subtle forms of autism. Another reason is autism now attracts more funding, especially in the early intervention years."
Ms Gibbs said there was a small group of people happy to have their children diagnosed with autism because giving them a label was the only way they could get help.
"Some diagnosticians will give the child that label even when they don't meet all the criteria," she said.
"It's the only way they can get help with their problems."