Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Friday, January 20, 2012

How a book's wording can change lives--for better, or worse

New Definition of Autism Will Exclude Many, Study Suggests
Proposed changes in the definition of autism would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed and might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services, a new analysis suggests.

The definition is now being reassessed by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, which is completing work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the first major revision in 17 years. The D.S.M., as the manual is known, is the standard reference for mental disorders, driving research, treatment and insurance decisions. Most experts expect that the new manual will narrow the criteria for autism; the question is how sharply.

Psychiatry is not an exact science, and has in the past been (and surely will, in the future, be) subject to fad diagnoses of one sort or another. But just because a diagnosis becomes popular does not mean that it isn't devastating on a personal level. I hope a compromise can be found in terms of making the diagnostic criteria meaningful and still helping those who need assistance.

Somewhat on topic, I saw this: A French Film Takes Issue With the Psychoanalytic Approach to Autism
The documentary, the first film by Sophie Robert, follows two autistic boys: Guillaume, who has been treated with the behavioral, or “American,” approach; and Julien, who has been kept in an asylum for six years and treated with psychoanalysis. Guillaume, though challenged, is functioning at a high level in school. Julien is essentially silent, locked out of society.

Since Sept. 8, when the film first became available on the Web, it and Ms. Robert, 44, have been the targets of criticism from both the analysts who appear in the film and from within the country’s psychoanalytic establishment. Three of the psychoanalysts whom Ms. Robert interviewed for the film have sued her, claiming she misrepresented them in the 52-minute documentary, which has not yet been screened in cinemas or on television.

On Jan. 26, a court in the northern city of Lille will decide whether Ms. Robert must remove their interviews from the documentary if she wishes to keep screening it. The plaintiffs are also seeking damages of €300,000, or $384,000. The lawsuit might be futile, since the film is widely available on the Web (with English subtitles), having been viewed on YouTube more than 16,000 times. (Ms. Robert argues that the plaintiffs, all of whom appear in the film, signed detailed releases.)
The article takes an interesting look at how some disorders (say, ADHD) or treatments (like behavioural therapy or mediciations) have a stigma of being thought too 'American'. It's worth a look. The film, Le Mur (The Wall), is viewable on YouTube with English subtitles.

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