Majority Professionals Do Not Believe Autism Increase Due to Better Diagnosis

Open Journal of PsychiatryVol.3 No.2A(2013), Article ID:30182,7 pagesDOI:10.4236/ojpsych.2013.32A010
Professional opinion on the question of changes in autism incidence
M. Catherine DeSoto*, Robert T. Hitlan

Copyright © 2013 M. Catherine DeSoto, Robert T. Hitlan. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Received 8 January 2013; revised 13 February 2013; accepted 21 February 2013
Keywords: Counselor Attitudes; Professional Opinion; ASD; Autism Prevalence; Autism
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.
We have reported the results of a survey of professional opinion on the topic of increased autism prevalence. The results indicate that the majority of professionals do not believe that the increase in reported autism is fully explainable by changes in diagnostic practice. Twenty-eight percent of professionals surveyed thought that diagnostic changes were accounting for all of the increase in diagnoses, while 60% thought this did not fully explain the observed increase.