Commission Calls for a “Profound Autism” Category

December 13, 2021

A Vulnerable ASD Population is at Risk of Being Overlooked Due to Focus on More Able Individuals

Britain’s weekly peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, recently released a report which calls for a new autism diagnostic classification. The journal assembled 32 autism community stakeholders and named the group  “The Lancet Commission”.  In their report, the group ultimately decided that “profound autism” should be recognized as a distinct diagnostic category of autism. The Lancet Commission’s proposed category includes individuals on the spectrum who have intellectual disability (IQ below 50), minimal or no language, require 24-hour supervision, and need assistance with activities of daily living. The commission’s proposal comes from a growing concern that research has been overly focused on high-functioning autism. Evidence of this practice is an earlier meta-analysis which showed that eight out of ten autism studies demonstrated bias against participants with intellectual disability. The Lancet Commission hopes that the introduction of this specific category will prompt both the clinical and research global communities to prioritize the needs of this vulnerable and underserved population. An alarming part of this report was the estimate for “profound autism,” which the authors suggest is between 18-48% of the 80 million autism cases worldwide. This means that as many as 40 million people will not experience a career, marriage, parenthood, and independent living due to their severe level of impairment. In order for “profound autism” to become an official diagnostic category, the term would have to be adopted by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), and/or the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

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