There are two articles in the New York Times about the new definition of autism. One is from a writer who was misdiagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as a teenager. Another is from a pyschiatrist who also complains about the overdiagnosis of Asperger's.
From a parent's perspective, check out my article in the Atlantic.
In terms of functionality, autism is a spectrum disorder. Some are eventually able to function in normal society. They'll hold down jobs and get married. They are able to function by learning how to compensate for their deficits and by finding employment that takes advantage of the unique strengths. There are others who are so severely affected that they will always need someone to care for them.
However, autism isn't always a spectrum disorder. One kid can have a very high cognitive level, but struggle with speech acquisition. Another kid can be a fluent speaker at two, but be overwhelmed by stimulation and by a compulsion to stick to routine. One kid can have a photographic memory, and another may be especially good at building things. Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to find commonalities in these kids.
As autism parents, we must all stick together, because all these kids need help from family, schools, and therapists to help with speech and social interactions or with overcoming OCD tics or with controlling their behavior. They need to have their gifts nurtured.
For every one kid who is misdiagnosed with autism, there are hundreds of thousands of autistic kids who are undiagnosed. Sometimes, they are purposely misdiagnosed from school districts that do not want to pay for therapy. As any parent of an autistic child knows, that label is the key to getting the help. There is no therapy or special schools for kids who live in the grey area of No Label.
The new definition of autism is a VERY BAD thing for parents of high functioning autism. While I know that the scientific community's motives in the creating the new definition of autism are pure and based on an interest in science, others are not so convinced. Some parents have whispered to me that this new definition is a plot by the insurance companies who don't want to pay for services any more. I don't believe that, but I do believe that autism parents are stretched to their limit and that these changes will make their lives much more difficult.