Those who have loved ones diagnosed with autism have held on to hope that some of the developmental issues associated with the disorder can be lessened or even eliminated with proper support in and out of the home. And they have reason to be hopeful—research is indicating that as people age, the disease may decrease independently of external intervention.
Researchers studied 34 individuals ages 8 to 21 who “lost” their autism symptoms as compared to 34 similarly aged people with high-functioning autism and 34 typically developing peers. The study reviewed early developmental history, tests about socialization and communication and conducted brain scans and gathered data about executive function, academic performance, language, psychiatric functioning, memory, and treatment history.
Similar studies have documented cases in which children have improved so greatly that they no longer meet the criteria for an autism diagnosis nor require extra academic support.
Though the study found positive results, it’s vital for people diagnosed with autism not to forego continual therapy. Autism is classified as a neuro-biological brain dysfunction without a cure.
“Our hope is that further research will help us better understand the mechanisms of change so that each child can have the best possible life,” said psychologist and study leader Deborah Fein of the University of Connecticut.
Because The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 1 percent of children nationwide have some form of autism—20 times the cases during the 1980s, this finding is exceptionally exciting news for those with direct connections to autistic individuals and will certainly prompt further studies.
The National Autism Association is another great resource providing information about autism support, safety, treatment and research.
Do you have personal experience with someone with autism who’s gradually improving? Would his/her caregivers be interested in learning about this research?
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