Former Chair of DSM-IV Writes of “America’s False Autism Epidemic”


Allen Frances, chairman of the DSM-IV task force, writes about “the fads that litter the history of psychiatry” in the New York Post today. “We have a strong urge to find labels for disturbing behaviors,” he writes, “naming things gives us an (often false) feeling that we control them. So, time and again, an obscure diagnosis suddenly comes out of nowhere to achieve great popularity.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Some parents are obsessed with diagnosing their children, not only with autissm but also with dyslexia etc. What these parents don’t realise is that diagnosing them gives their children a feeling of not being adequate and not good enough. Sometimes parents are too competitive and have preconceived ideas about what their children should be doing and at what age. These parents do their children more harm than good by not letting them develop at their own pace.I have witnessed that sort of thing going on among my friends.

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  2. Our schools are also increasingly requiring labels on children before we’ll help them. Funding is attached to the labels, which I get, but then the labels become reality and the kids are stuck with them and all of the implications attached to them. The same is even more true for mental health treatment for kids. If we stopped requiring labels for funding, we’d have a better chance of developing a new paradigm.

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