Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Symptom Diagnoses

One of the things that I think is fundamentally important to understand about Autism is that it is a symptom diagnosis.  Like hypertension or ADHD, what is defined by such diagnoses is a symptom or set of symptoms.  This is very different from diagnoses like Malaria or Sickle Cell Anemia or Down Syndrome where the diagnosis includes the cause, the reason the particular symptoms are seen.

Thus, a diagnosis of Autism only says that the person displays a certain set of symptoms, but it says nothing about why that is happening.  As understanding grows, I think it highly likely that we'll discover this grouping includes widely disparate causes that do not belong under the same title because they are fundamentally different (and will respond to widely disparate interventions).

For any symptom diagnosis, probing into potential causes can be highly useful.  That doesn't mean that the actions to directly address symptoms are ignored, but it does mean that the diagnosis is a label with a big question mark at the end... why?  Maybe a kid isn't focussing well because he has food/environmental allergies or GI pain or dyslexia or... there are many potential reasons.  Kids are also often unaware or unable to articulate clearly what they're experiencing.

This isn't an admonition to spend every moment probing potential causes as I could easily spend my life reading Autism resources and miss the joys of parenting (along with many others)!  It's just a note to keep in mind that a symptom diagnosis only gives a surface level description and seeking to understand what is underneath in your or your child's particular case can yield great rewards.

Of course, no diagnosis or label defines a kid... you never know when a kiddo with social deficits might surprise you and plunge joyfully into a kid sandwich like mine did two days ago!

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