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      Tuesday
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      Redefinition of autism raises concerns about medical benefits

      R ight now , nearly one in 100 children are diagnosed with autism. Some are calling it the "autism epidemic".

      "When he was first diagnosed it started one in 166 children and now it's gone to one in 100," said Jaleen Jones, mother of eight-year-old Mason Jones who was diagnosed with autism years ago.

      But now, the definition of "autism" may be changing.

      Essentially, the new autism spectrum disorder would narrow the window by which a child could be diagnosed with autism. That would eliminate autism categories like Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder from the American Psychiatric Association manual.

      Even though Mason would most likely still be included under the new autism re-definition, other families might face a different situation.

      "They're probably going to be out of that category now," said Loren Jones, Mason's father. "They're going to lose all the benefits that they had being diagnosed autistic."

      That could mean an added financial burden.

      "Most people who have autistic children are met with incredible debts for medical reasons, prescriptions, doctor visits," said Jaleen.

      "If they are basically told that they're on their own and all the benefits that they may have had due to the label being autistic or Aspergers or whatever, a lot of the lower income families that have that diagnosis won't be able to go to the doctor," said Loren.

      Because the severity of Mason's autism may change as he grows, all Jaleen and Jordan can do is hope for more research into the disorder and continued help from others.

      "Without these programs and people that help him, support him in doing things which I could not do myself, or even with my husband," added Jaleen. "There are some things we can't do. Without their help, so far there's no way Mason would've come as far as he has today."