New York Times Reports that Autism May Not Be a Lifelong Diagnosis

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Brain & Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Grantee Inge-Marie Eigsti, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut
Inge-Marie Eigsti, Ph.D.

A recent study published online on Jan. 16 and scheduled for print publication in the Feb. 2013 issue of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry shows that some children may “grow out of” autism or go on to function normally. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Grantee Inge-Marie Eigsti, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut contributed to the study.

The observational study focused on a small sample of 34 children and young adults ages 8 to 21 who had been diagnosed with autism at an early age. Evaluations of the group and comparisons to groups with high-functioning autism and typical development revealed social, communications and language skills in line with the non-autistic peers. The findings indicate that there is a wide range of possible outcomes for children who are correctly diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

The findings are receiving international attention in media ranging from the New York Times to the BBC. This research is especially significant because, according to the Center for Disease Control, one in every 88 eight year olds is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Future research is needed to replicate the findings and to identify the most effective therapeutic treatments, early interventions and coping skill strategies so that outcomes can be optimized for people diagnosed with autism.

Read the New York Times story “Some with Autism Diagnosis Can Overcome Symptoms, Study Finds.

Read the BBC Story “Children ‘may grow out of autism.’

Article comments

This is a very interesting study, however what is slightly saddening is the unpredictability of which children may recover and which may not. I wish we could find a way so that all autistic children could be cured once and for all. I think the answers could only be available by means of further research and investigation. Thanks for the article!

I think research should be focused more on what coping strategies and tools are best suited for an individual as they move into the new and challenging stressors of adulthood not on "curing". As a parent of a child with high functioning ASD I saw my son graduate High School with honors, lettering in 3 sports and looking like he had "grown out" of his autism. Now that he is an adult in college and we are seeing a lot of behaviors re-appearing since he is trying to adjust to the huge changes in expectations and predictability in the college setting. A study such as this should probably look longer term into the 30's and 40's before pronouncing a cure.

I am assuming that all of these children are tested for toxoplasmosis which could go dromant if children possess a good immune system

Our brains take over 20 years to develop and for some of us, learning is lifelong. Children who are diagnosed as autistic may well grow up into reasonably well functioning adults. That does not mean that they have been "cured", simply that they have learned to compensate for some deficits and/or learned strategies to help them cope. Following the course of Dr Temple Grandin's life is the seminal case in point. At the age of 2 years, her father wanted her to be institutionalised. Look at her now! (If you have never heard of her, you should be VERY embarrassed!)
Instead of viewing us from the outside, TALK to us. We can tell you far more than you will ever know by doing "research"!

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Please note that researchers cannot give specific recommendations or advice about treatment; diagnosis and treatment are complex and highly individualized processes that require comprehensive face-to- face assessment. Please visit our "Ask an Expert" section to see a list of Q & A with NARSAD Grantees.
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