The news story "Diagnosis of autism to fall" [Jan. 26] states that the soaring incidence of autism in the past 19 years is "based largely on broad diagnostic categories."

If this statement were correct, there wouldn't be thousands of applications in file cabinets of schools across Long Island for children with autism. They were filed on behalf of children whose autism is so severe they cannot be educated appropriately in a district setting.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

If this statement were correct, police could forego the training that's been required in the past 19 years on how to respond when called to the homes of children on the autism spectrum, to calm a child who is destroying the house and risking serious injury, or physically attacking family members, or missing because he or she slipped away, like Avonte Oquendo, the nonverbal autistic boy who was found dead after he was missing for three months.

And if this statement were correct, the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities wouldn't have been inundated with a tremendous increase, in the past 19 years, in children and adults meeting the agency's eligibility criteria for services.

This socio-economic tsunami of autism can't be stopped by altering diagnostic criteria.

Terri Manzione, Setauket

Editor's note: The writer is executive director of a new organization, Friends of L'Arche-Long Island. Friends of L'Arche communities are family-like places where people with disabilities live with assistants.