Is Mild Autism Over-Diagnosed?

Autism Diagnosis

Written by Dr. John Carosso

Recent article in the paper

Mr. John Rosemond, a psychologist who writes a syndicated article in the local paper, is increasingly driving me nuts, and he’s at it again. You may have seen his recent article in the Trib; he writes that children diagnosed mildly on the autism spectrum are largely just ‘quirky’, and summarily and unnecessarily diagnosed.

Very frustrating to read such nonsense

Ridiculous comments such as that do nothing but cause parents confusion and strife. Practitioners go to great lengths to ensure a child, when diagnosed, is done so accurately and reliably.

Are there false-positives?

When a child has mild symptoms, determining whether the child meets all the diagnostic criteria can, in fact, become challenging. However, even in those situations, the ‘mild’ and ‘borderline’ symptomology is thoroughly explained to the parent as just that, as well as the likelihood of an excellent prognosis. In order to error on the side of caution, all too often the child is not outright diagnosed as having autism and, in fact, mild autism is under, not over-diagnosed.

The symptoms must be ‘getting in the way’ of the child’s day-to-day functioning

The DSM-V specifies, for autism spectrum disorder, Criterion D, that “symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.” Put another way, the symptoms, no matter how mild, must be ‘getting in the way’ of the child’s functioning. In that respect, parents who bring their child for an evaluation do so for a reason. It’s not because they’re bored and have nothing better to do. It’s because their kids, even if presenting with only “mild” symptoms to the casual observer, are appreciably struggling in some ways. It is vital to spell-out the extent to which autism symptomology is contributing to these struggles, and provide the necessary treatment. Casting doubt on this process only hurts children.

He’s “done a lot of reading…”!

Mr. Rosemond naively and arrogantly claims to have “done a good amount of reading on this issue” and that’s how he has come to his conclusion. Instead, he should spend a week with you, and me, and kiddos directly experiencing these struggles, and maybe then he would get a clue.

Hope that helps to clear up that misinformation

God bless you as you continue to pursue what’s best for your child and the very best in treatment options. Please feel free to let me know of any questions or concerns you have along the way, and how I can further assist you in that effort.

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (, a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh ( and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (