Good News: Some Kids May Grow Out of Autism

This Just In 9

puzzle piecesDo 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

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missusmc missusmc

I would like to see a larger scale study done on this, but really, this does show the need for early intervention services to be available to all children. Regardless of ones potential to lose his or her diagnosis, every child can learn, grow, and improve. I think that needs to be the focus of those caring for kids on the spectrum. My husband and I want our children to reach their full potentials, wherever they may land on (or off) the spectrum.

JCKit... JCKitten87

Missusmc is right, early intervention is key, my daughter has been in therapies since right after she turned 2, she will be 5 in May (which is unbelievable to me) the progress she has made month to month is wonderful. She has began actually meeting her IEP goals, she will be in main stream kindergarten next year, even though I have worries, they are beginning to fade and her teachers and therapists have full confidence that she will do great and continue to make great progress.

Mommi... MommietoJB

I totally agree with the moms above. Is it that these children are outgrowing autism or is it now that kids are being diagnosed early and getting early intervention that their behavior and speech are improving over time. My son has greatly improved with early intervention preschool. But I think its wrong to state that children grow out of autism, because as we all know they can become mainstream but we cannot forget that there brain is wired differently then neurotypical children. We essentially teach them how to fit in, be socially acceptable but they will still have a different outlook at the world.

Sarah Surface-Evans

My eldest is on the spectrum. We started interventions when he was 2.5 yrs old - Occupational Therapy, speech therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, the whole works. He is now 6 and on the whole, functions at a much better level then he once did. Early intervention DID work for him. But the fact of the matter remains, that he will always remain neurologically different than "normal" children and will ALWAYS have special challenges.

Momto... MomtoDavid

I don't know that they are outgrowing autism or that they are just learning to cope with the outside world and hide thier differences. Our hope for my 6 year old is that as an adult he will be able to get a good career and blend in with people. My husband has Aspergers, undiagnosed, and is fine with people just seems a bit quirky. He has problems behind closed doors. He hates going to the store because of the large amount of people and wants to get in and out. His stress level rises when he knows he has to go deal with people. But in public you would think he was a normal person just a big on the weird quirky side. But his weird quirks are apart of him, and I love him because of them and he wouldn't be the person he is without them.

We know the worst case for our son is a half-way house. But we are hoping and working towards him being an independant man able to take care of himself. He's been in therapy for 2 years and has come along way. If he was to be diagnosed right now, he would probably be aspergers instead of PDD-NOS 

Denise Barnett

My granddaughter, who is now 13, is one of those children. I don't look at it as growing out of it but into it. We have worked very very hard on everything from social skills to speech.

We went from non-verbal at 4 to having quite a wide vocab, telling her to slow down her speech at times because she typically talks at the speed of sound and gets upset when you ask her to slow down. Her friends, who are few, call her blurr. From hating to be around people to tolerating them, she is even captian of her soccer team and can play any position but her best one if keeper. As she says there aren't as many people in her box. She still has things we need to work on but we will march on.

Like MomtoDavid's comment behind closed doors can be a different matter. We still talk her into the store or resturants. Her stress levels at doing certain things can be over the top but in public you would think she was just a normal shy child. She too has the PDD-NOS diagonsis but man agree she is most likely Aspergers. Just went through this argument at a 504 meeting this week at school, but got what I wanted.

She will always have her unique quirks. She will always have austim but as we like to say it austim will not have her.

Shannon Kmatz

My son has HFA. He has been in various therapies since he was 2. From the outside looking in, if you have never been around a child with autism, you would not know. At 14 he no longer has meltdowns. He attend bot general ed and accelerated classes. He still needs modifications in school as he has dysgraphia. He has a psychiatrist that manages his meds and without the meds, the autism is very obvious. I have seen him stim only a couple of times in the past year. I do have hope that is not false hope that he will continue to get better. He makes eye contact, has learned pragmatic speech skills, will give presentations for is Civil Air Patrol squadron, and he loves hugs.

I am in the process of completing my PhD in Clinical Psychology for the purpose of working with pervasive development disorders, primarily adolescents and young adults. I am considering writing my dissertation about this topic. If any parents have seen major improvements in their kids who are on the spectrum, I would love to hear from them a

nonmember avatar janet

In time behaviors get better, but if truly diagnosed with autism, there is no out growing it.

nonmember avatar janet

In time behaviors get better, but if truly diagnosed with autism, there is no out growing it.

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