Autistic Kids Are Getting Better -- Here's Proof

happy child with autism

As you've heard (and keep hearing), rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continue to rise. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 kids has the developmental disability, which is caused by differences in the brain, and it's almost five times more common in boys than girls. ASD is a lifelong condition that can affect a child's education, social skills, and everyday behavior, but a new study actually has some good news for parents of autistic kids.

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In the largest study so far of its kind, researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto followed 421 children from their diagnosis of ASD (between the ages of 2 and 4) until they turned 6. By gathering data four different times over the years, they were able to track both kids' symptoms and how they adapted to everyday life.

Some kids did "remarkably well" but in two striking ways. Eleven percent of children showed an improvement in ASD symptoms, such as flapping, rocking, or repetitive speech. About 20 percent improved their "adaptive functioning," or how they were able to function in their daily lives. (For instance, how they interacted and talked with others.)

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Interestingly, not all kids improved in both areas, which underscores a need for experts to treat each individually.

Less than a quarter of the study's participants were girls, but researchers found that as a whole, they had less severe symptoms and showed more improvement in them than boys. And the younger any child was diagnosed with ASD, the more likely their "adaptive functioning" improved over time. 

It sounds incredibly early, but a reliable diagnosis of ASD can be made as early as age 2. A third to a half of parents notice problems before their child's first birthday.

Early red flags include avoiding eye contact, a lack of "pretend" playing, not responding to their name by 12 months of age, or not pointing to things that interest them by 14 months. If you notice any signs in your child, talk to your pediatrician.

Have you found anything that helps your autistic child's symptoms?

 

Image © iStock.com/UrsaHoogle

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