If you - or someone you know - has a child who’s been diagnosed with autism, you probably think of it as a lifelong condition but it may not be.
In fact, a new study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry suggests that some autistic children lose their symptoms as they get older. Given that 1 in every 88 children has the disorder, that’s big news. But is it really possible to outgrow autism?
Dr. Deborah Fein, who led the study for the National Institutes of Health, is cautiously optimistic. All of the children she studied had been accurately diagnosed with autism as toddlers. And all went on to function just as well as their non-autistic classmates. Meaning, they did just as well on tests, got similar reports from teachers and didn’t exhibit any classic autistic behaviors, like trouble socializing or difficulty recognizing faces. So, the study at least opens the door to the possibility that autism isn’t always a lifelong condition.
But Dr. Judith Gould, who’s a director of the National Autistic Society, disagrees. She says the study simply highlights how effective treatment can be. Instead of outgrowing autism, she believes the children who no longer exhibit autistic symptoms learned coping strategies that improved their scores on the diagnostic tests – thanks to therapy and parental support.
Bottom line? What’s really important is the progress the kids made. Whether it’s the result of outgrowing the symptoms, or being given the skills to manage them, the findings show that there’s a wide range of positive outcomes for kids diagnosed with autism.