A new study conducted on a small group has found that some children diagnosed with autism have started developing normally as they got older. The study was upported by the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers say that the children, who were earlier diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), seem to have grown out of the condition and are now developing like other children of the same age. Researchers are now conducting a detailed analysis to find out if these children have any other underlying symptom of autism.
The research team led by Deborah Fein, Ph.D., at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, will also assess the role of intervention on the autism diagnosis of these children.
"Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes. For an individual child, the outcome may be knowable only with time and after some years of intervention. Subsequent reports from this study should tell us more about the nature of autism and the role of therapy and other factors in the long term outcome for these children," said Thomas R. Insel, M.D. Director NIMH in a news release.
The study included 34 participants who were between 8 and 21 years old and were diagnosed with autism. These participants are now functioning normally and developing at the same rate as their peers. The study also included 44 children with high-functioning autism, and 34 typically developing peers.
There have been previous studies that looked at the possibility of children starting to develop at the same rate as their peers after an initial ASD diagnosis. However, one of the limitations of these studies was that the initial diagnosis could be inaccurate. To account for this factor, researchers included only those participants who had received a proper diagnosis of the condition.
Other diagnostic experts were asked to verify the current diagnosis of the study participant without revealing the status of the child.
Researchers have collected additional information from the study participants like brain imaging data, psychiatric outcomes and details of any intervention programs that they have received.
"All children with ASD are capable of making progress with intensive therapy, but with our current state of knowledge most do not achieve the kind of optimal outcome that we are studying. 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 Dr. Fein.
Autism Spectrum Disorders is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children and 1 in every 54 boys is born with autism in the U.S.
The study is published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.