Can Some Children Outgrow Autism? New Study Offers Hope



Ever wondered if children can outgrow autism diagnosis? A recent study from Boston Children’s Hospital explores this intriguing possibility, offering fresh insights to decode this condition.

Surprising Findings: Kids Might Be Able To Outgrow Autism

In a groundbreaking study conducted by Boston Children’s Hospital, it has been discovered that a significant number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as toddlers, between the ages of 12 to 36 months, appeared to “outgrow” the disorder within a few years of diagnosis. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics on October 2nd, followed 213 children who had been diagnosed with ASD during their toddler years.

By the time these children reached the ages of 5 to 7, approximately 37% of them no longer met the criteria for an autism diagnosis according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Interestingly, female children and those with “higher baseline adaptive skills,” such as communication, self-care, and decision-making, were more likely to no longer meet the diagnostic criteria.

A significant factor noted in the study was that all the children who outgrew the diagnosis had an IQ of at least 70. This emphasizes the potential importance of cognitive abilities in the trajectory of children with ASD.

Dr. Elizabeth Harstad, an attending physician in developmental medicine at Boston Children’s and the leader of the study, stressed the importance of these findings for parents, highlighting the need for continued monitoring of their child’s development, even if they no longer meet the criteria for ASD. She explained that a child’s development is a dynamic process, and other areas of functioning may require support and monitoring as they grow.

The study reported that all children received interventions, primarily behavioral analysis, following their initial autism diagnosis. This raises the possibility that children who no longer met the criteria for ASD at the age of 6 may have responded more positively to treatment than those for whom the diagnosis persisted.

Dr. William Barbaresi, chief of developmental medicine at Boston Children’s and the senior author of the study, underscored the significance of these findings, suggesting that they prompt a reevaluation of the effectiveness of current autism treatments. He called for increased research to determine whether new treatment approaches might be necessary.

While intriguing, the study has certain limitations. It did not take into account the varying levels of severity of autism or whether the children had other impairments or disorders. Nevertheless, the findings offer a new perspective on the dynamic nature of autism in children and the potential for positive outcomes with early interventions.

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