Debate Over Whether it’s Possible to ‘Grow Out Of Autism’

Researchers believe they have shown that children who had been diagnosed with autism at a young age can cease to display symptoms when they are older.

In a study, they found one-third of parents with children who had ever been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder believed their child no longer had the condition, the Daily Mail reported.

A team, led by Dr Andrew Zimmerman from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, studied data from a phone survey of 92,000 parents of children aged 17 and younger in the U.S in 2007 and 2008.

In total, 1,366 said their child had a past or current diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. In 453 of those cases, children had been diagnosed by a doctor of having a disorder but parents said they didn’t have one anymore.

Past studies have also found some children who originally have an autism spectrum disorder ultimately lose the symptoms and are no longer considered autistic.

University of Connecticut psychology professor Deborah Fein studied 20 children who, according to rigorous analysis, got a correct diagnosis but years later were no longer considered autistic.

But experts disagree about whether it’s possible for kids who are diagnosed correctly with one of the autism-spectrum disorders to advance to the point where they are no longer affected.

“When you’re autistic, you’re autistic. It’s a very stable condition,” said Professor Johhn Matson, at Louisiana State University.

Dr Zimmerman argued that recognizing autism early and starting treatment can increase the likelihood for real, lasting improvement.

“It’s not unusual to see a child start out with more severe autism and then become more moderate and even mild as the years go by. A lot of the kids are improving, and we don’t really know why, except we know there’s a lot of moldability of the developing brain,” he said.

“We think that earlier treatment is essential and there are reasons to think that we can improve the kids. I’m very optimistic,” he added.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.