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Professional Opinion on the Question of Changes in Autism Incidence

Science post image"...Results suggest that among professional psychologists with a terminal degree (n = 88), the majority believe that diagnostic changes can not fully account for the observed increase; 72% reported either the true rate may have, or definitely has, increased..."

Professional opinion on the question of changes in autism incidence

PDF (Size:162KB) PP. 61-67   DOI: 10.4236/ojpsych.2013.32A010

M. Catherine DeSoto, Robert T. Hitlan


The question of whether the prevalence increase observed in autism due to an actual increase in the incidence of autism is a matter of concern to professional psychologists, and has been a matter of debate. As professionals trained in diagnosis and research methodology, the opinions of psychologists are of interest. We report the results of what we believe to be the first survey of professional opinion on the topic. Results suggest that among professional psychologists with a terminal degree (n = 88), the majority believe that diagnostic changes can not fully account for the observed increase; 72% reported either the true rate may have, or definitely has, increased. In this sample, the professionals who are certain about the occurrence of a real increase (n=20) are five times as many as those who do not think the increase has occurred (n=4). These results are not meant to document whether or not an increase has or has not occurred, but instead speak to the question of consensus opinion among professional psychologists. What experts believe is an empirical question, and statements about what experts believe should be empirically based.


Counselor Attitudes; Professional Opinion; ASD; Autism Prevalence; Autism

Cite this paper

DeSoto, M. and Hitlan, R. (2013) Professional opinion on the question of changes in autism incidence. Open Journal of Psychiatry, 3, 61-67. doi: 10.4236/ojpsych.2013.32A010.


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Haha, just good to know that most professionals who would be directly dealing with this issue, aren't buying the crap that "science"blogs and AAP, AMA, NIH are selling.


Two things...
I'd guess that most parents would trust a neurologist for diagnosing, right? Somehow we deny this obvious fact and continue to trust the psychologist and psychiatrist - even after they are changing the DSM rules.

I've just met a 16YO with obvious HF Autism and he only has a depression diagnosis and no services. So I wouldn't trust schools to diagnose. This is in a district that is not only broke but no longer human.

So the question is two fold: who is it that diagnosis and who is going to financially pay? Without one, you will NOT, I repeat, NOT, find the other.

Teresa Conrick

Thank you, Catherine DeSoto. We appreciate that you did check and the quote says it all -

"72% reported either the true rate may have, or definitely has, increased. In this sample, the professionals who are certain about the occurrence of a real increase (n=20) are five times as many as those who do not think the increase has occurred (n=4)."

Many thanks for your valid and appropriate reality checks in research.

Cathy DeSoto

I think the take home message is this: real scientists actually do Not dismiss parent reports out of hand and they do not ignore obvious trends in cold hard data. In spite of what some people say (see the quote on this in the paper) experts believe, actual experts look at reality and reject the odd supposition that it is all just more awareness. They do. I checked.
-Catherine DeSoto


Quite correct, Benedetta. The school district special ed screening teacher diagnosed my older autistic son after observing his behavior for 15 seconds or so: "He looks like he has autism; we're getting all kinds of these kids now and we don't know where it's coming from." The idiot HMO psychiatrist and psychologist told us he was not autistic and would get better if we just allowed him to watch lots of videos with singing and talking (ditto for his autistic younger brother!).

Birgit Calhoun

At least there is a prevailing opinion here. The problem I see is that anyone who gets trained in the wording of diagnoses and then gets a degree is so much more "capable" in assessing the nature of this or that child than a parent who really knows all about him or her.

It's as if the psychologists are always trying to "exactify" (I just made up that word) their science which really is not a science. But then who knows what science is anymore considering all the problems we encounter in the "real" world of science: Mercury becomes a negligible poison, and in that world the real culprit, kind of a stand-in, is lead. Science gets falsified to benefit corporate greed etc.

And now come the psychologists with their new DSM-V which has been put together by a committee of important psychiatrically-trained "scientists?" In my book even medicine is not a real science. When do we get back to real science and look at poisons as if they are really harmful.

Is there anything in the new handbook that talks about the effects of vitamin deficiency states that can have disastrous effects on a child's body or real toxins such as arsenic that according to a recent study show up in 88% of all the chickens sold in the supermarket? It's obvious I digress. But isn't that what is happening when it comes to our children? Somebody is digressing


Hey, I know - it is the teachers' fault.

The Univerities teaching - teachers in the elementary schools should teach them to ignore those kids that are really easy to ignore - the ones the never speak and play by themselves and and at the end of the year pass them to the next class even if they have not learned to read or speak yet, or add or subtract.


This is the only profession on the planet that would doubt their own results.

Really - every school assesses it's students for goodness sakes- it is the schools, the schools, the schools not some lone parent draggind some kid to a long psych and please -- it sure is not some ped or doctor-- and if it is - that ped and doc is a rare bird.

As in our case - at the beginning of this mess.
I knew - but I was not sure what I knew, so I took him somewhere; and they tested and they knew, the neighbor knew, my mother knew.

When he began school his teachers knew something was wrong, and passed it on to to the school psychologist, and she tested and every year she tested and the teachers assessed and tested and assessed and tested.

It was not some silly ped that saw him for 15 minutes once or twice a month of some kind of infection.

Is this the way is was for every one else?I bet it is.

It is not up to the psychs -- it is the schools.

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