The newest diagnostic criteria (DSM-V) have eliminated the different labels for autism and autism spectrum, and Asperger’s syndrome. It was long debated whether autism and Asperger’s syndrome were completely different conditions, or rather more and less severe versions of the same disorder, and we have come to believe the latter. Hence, we now have a single diagnostic category of Autism, accompanied by descriptors for level of severity. However, there is clearly a spectrum of severity – an autism spectrum – along which individuals fall, and children at the lower end of functioning, with limited cognitive capacity and limited use of spoken language, have very different needs than children with normal cognitive capacity and strong language skills (except for problems with “pragmatic” language).
As with other neurodevelopmental and emotional/behavioral disorders, no two people have exactly the same set of symptoms or characteristics, or to the same degree. It is very important to map out a child’s levels of cognitive, social emotional, executive and sensory motor capacity, and pattern of strengths and weaknesses, at as early an age as possible.
Autism & Pitocin
Watching the meteoric rise in autism in the past twenty years, I can’t help wonder about possible causes. One concern is the use of pitocin – the synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin – by obstetricians on women during labor and delivery, which has, in this same time period, become increasingly common, almost routine. Despite their doctors’ assurances, some women are concerned about its safety for them and their baby. Because it is naturally occurring in the body, it doesn’t have to be cleared for use by the FDA. But the baby’s exposure to this critically important hormone has been very finely tuned by evolution, and both logic and science suggest that exposure to massive amounts, in the interest of “speeding up” labor, is not harmless.
There is very clear evidence from animal studies, that early exposure to oxytocin interferes with both the development of the oxytocin brain system and the social behaviors that depend on it. In humans, evidence that pitocin may increase the chances that a baby will develop autism has been presented in major studies published in 2013 in the Journal of the American Medical Association by a team at Duke University and in 2015 in the Journal of Behavioral Brain Research by Weisman and colleagues. Here is a PDF of a small study completed at CFN (Rissenberg 2010), which presents a summary of the argument and references to some basic research studies.