Children ‘may grow out of autism’
Some small children accurately diagnosed as autistic lose their symptoms and their diagnosis as they grow older, say US researchers.
The findings of the National Institutes of Health study of 112 children appears to challenge the generally held belief that autism is a lifelong condition.
While not conclusive, the study, within the Journal of kid Psychology and Psychiatry, suggests some children might possibly outgrow autism.
But experts urge caution.
Much more work is wanted to determine what might explain the findings.
Dr Deborah Fein and her team on the University of Connecticut studied 34 children who have been diagnosed with autism in early childhood but went directly to function in addition to 34 other children of their classes in school.
On tests – cognitive and observational, in addition to reports from the children’s parents and faculty – they were indistinguishable from their classroom peers. They now showed no sign of issues of language, face recognition, communication or social interaction.
For comparison, the researchers also studied another 44 children of a similar age, sex and non-verbal IQ level who had had a diagnosis of “high-functioning” autism – meaning they were deemed to be less severely suffering from their condition.
It became clear that the kids within the optimal outcome group – those who not had recognisable signs of autism – had had milder social deficits than the high-functioning autism group in early childhood, although they did produce other autism symptoms, like repetitive behaviours and communication problems, that were as severe.
The researchers went back and checked the accuracy of the children’s original diagnosis, but found no reason to suspect they had been inaccurate.
Label for all times?
The researchers say there are various possible explanations for his or her findings.
It can be that some children genuinely outgrow their condition. Or even some can catch up on autism-related difficulties.
Dr Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said: “Although the diagnosis of autism seriously is not usually lost over the years, the findings suggest that there’s a very big selection of possible outcomes.
“Subsequent reports from this study should let us know more concerning the nature of autism and the role of therapy and other factors inside the long run outcome for these children.”
It should be that autism cannot always be accurately defined or diagnosed, particularly because the condition affects people in numerous ways.
Indeed, experts have disagreed about what autism is.
The American Psychiatric Association is currently revising its diagnostic manual – the “bible” for doctors that lists every psychiatric disorder and their symptoms.
Its new edition proposes changes he UK’s National Autistic Society says could affect the way in which diagnoses would be given to people at the autism spectrum.
Instead of using the present terms of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified), people might be given an umbrella diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder”.
And their impairments shall be reduced to 2 main areas – social communication/interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities.
Most diagnoses within the UK are in keeping with the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), published by the arena Health Organization, that’s up for revision in 2015.
According to the National Autistic Society, multiple in every 100 people, greater than 500,000 people in all, inside the UK have autism.
About a fifth, an estimated 106,000, are school-aged children.
Dr Judith Gould, director of the National Autistic Society’s Lorna Wing Centre for Autism, said: “Autism is a lifelong disability affecting the way in which that folk communicate and have interaction with others.
“This study is calling at a small sample of high functioning individuals with autism and we might urge people to not jump to conclusions in regards to the nature and complexity of autism, besides its longevity.
“With intensive therapy and support, it’s possible for a small sub-group of high functioning people with autism to benefit coping behaviours and techniques which might ‘mask’ their underlying condition and alter their scoring within the diagnostic tests used to see their condition on this research.
“This research acknowledges that a diagnosis of autism is simply not usually lost through the years and it’s important to recognise the support that individuals with autism need so that they can live the lives in their choosing.”
She said getting a diagnosis may be a critical milestone for kids with autism and their families, often helping parents to know their children better and helping them to support their children in reaching their full potential.