Autism, vaccines, and social diagnosis

Autism is a condition that I don’t really understand.  It’s probably a condition that most people don’t understand, which is why so much is still in question about it.   Ok, we do know a few things.  We know it starts before the age of 3 and is usually hereditary.  We know it affects all areas of brain development, if we don’t know how.

Despite the fact that autism and related disorders (such as Asperger’s) are not completely understood, the federal government seems to be confident that childhood vaccines do not cause autism.  With this landmark case, however, there may be some evidence that vaccines can aggravate related conditions that could eventually cause ‘autism-like symptoms’.

While I understand the need to distinguish between different related conditions, and the problems that can arise from a lack of understanding of what a condition might entail, it is indeterminate classifications such as ASD (autism spectrum disorders) that riles me about the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition).  When these classifications are used to determine the fate of children with mental impairments, when they determine the funding, support, and government assistance that children receive, it makes me wonder what decisions are being made and why.  Are we diagnosing to try and help more people in need?  Are we diagnosing to fit the known familial and financial circumstances of the child?  Are we diagnosing to the best of our ability within classifications that are at times vague and overlapping?  And if we are picking and choosing diagnoses, is this right?