Can children grow out of autism?

Hope as some diagnosed children show signs of recovery in study

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A new study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry suggests that some children with high functioning autism may show signs of recovery.

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The research, carried out by Dr Deborah Fein and her team at the University of Connecticut, studied 34 children who had been diagnosed with autism at a young age. Following comparative tests with their peers, they were found to function as well as 34 other children in the school class.

There have been suggestions that autism was not correctly diagnosed in the first instance, particularly as the condition affects people in different ways, but researchers are confident in their findings.

Dr Thomas Insel, director of the National Institue of Mental Health, said, “Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lots over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes.

“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,” Insel continued.

However, Dr Judith Gould, director of the National Austistic Society’s Lorna Wing Centre for Autism said, “Autism is a lifelong disability affecting the way people communicate and interact with others,” reports the BBC.

Judith continues, “This study is looking at a small sample of high functioning people with autism and we would urge people not to jump to conclusions about the nature and complexity of autism, as well as its longevity.

“With intensive therapy and support, it’s possible for a small sub-group of high functioning individuals with autism to learn coping behaviours and strategies which would ‘mask’ their underlying condition and change their scoring in the diagnostic tests used to determine their condition in this research,” Judith adds.

Judith urges parents to seek a professional diagnosis, which can be a “critical milestone” in helping children and their families cope with autism. While the study may give hope, it’s important to note that more research needs to be done on a wider scale.

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