Autism Redefined

Parents worry help will be cut off with shift in definition of autism.
2:17 | 01/20/12

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Transcript for Autism Redefined
Controversy now affecting every American family those who have an autistic child and those who know someone who heard that news about their child. Currently one child out of every 100 in America is diagnosed with autism. But the definition may be about to change and here's ABC's John Donvan. And I. For seventeen years behaviors like those Jason has movements and inability to relate to people obsessive interest they all added up to a diagnosis of autism. But not for much longer. Another proposed changes for the next edition of this book the DSM which officially defines autism disorder. Our past if that happens autism could become -- harder diagnosis to get here is why. Right now there -- a menu of behaviors that can indicate autism from preoccupation with objects to inability to keep eye contact to difficulty holding a conversation. To be diagnosed a person only had to show some of these behaviors but by no means all. Under the change a person would need to manifest nearly the entire list place -- why do this now. With the numbers rising for the last two decades and causing great alarm. Scientists became increasingly aware that the way they were counting and the labels they were using were inconsistent often imprecise and sometimes -- applied. The change could be dramatic Yale researchers looked at the new proposed definition of autism and that a group of children diagnosed with -- back in 1994 and found there was a group of people about half who who didn't meet criteria. According to the proposed definition. Asperger's syndrome long considered a less severe variant of autism will disappear as a category altogether. Well if Jason lost his diagnosis he could be devastating. Because with a great deal of time and effort he was -- to talk he can talk but that could now become a problem -- mother says. If they did send him to be reevaluated. -- not meet the criteria. For those kinds special education services he so desperately needs. Why does that matter because school systems are only obliged to provide -- classes and therapies when there is an official diagnosis without it Jason will be on his own. Where he could still face serious challenges. John Donvan ABC news Washington.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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