Do some kids just grow out of autism? I've heard parents talking about this happening -- either on its own or after years of diet change and therapy. But a new study confirms what some parents have been saying: Some children may lose their autism diagnosis when they get older.
The National Institutes of Health tracked a small group of school-aged kids from when they were first diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and followed them as they grew older. Some of those young people, as they grew older, seemed to the researchers to be "on par with typically developing peers." It definitely doesn't happen to all children diagnosed with ASD, but it does help doctors understand autism a little bit better.
Here's what NIMH director Thomas Insel says about what doctors learned.
Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes. For an individual child, the outcome may be knowable only with time and after some years of intervention. Subsequent reports from this study should tell us more about the nature of autism and the role of therapy and other factors in the long term outcome for these children.
In other words, it happens, but we don't know why or how. I don't know how helpful this is for parents with kids on the spectrum. On one hand, I think it's always helpful when research confirms what we experience. But it's not like doctors can now predict what percentage of kids "grow out of" autism or anything even close to that. Will the study give some parents false hope? Maybe -- maybe not. I mean, that hope is always kind of there anyway. So there's probably not a major takeaway from this study that will help parents and kids RIGHT NOW.
But it's exciting to know that we're starting to understand autism a little better -- and to know that it's not a static condition. The symptoms can change over time. That can make life unpredictable in both good and bad ways. At least now people can manage their expectations for life with autism.
Have you known kids on the spectrum whose symptoms change or even disappear over time?
Image via Horia Varlan/Flickr