Can Some Children Outgrow Autism?
Is it possible for a child diagnosed with autism to ‘outgrow’ it when they get older? A 2013 study of 112 children published by the National Institutes of Health suggested that 34 individuals diagnosed with ASD went on to function as well as neurotypical children, and no longer met the clinical criteria for autism years later. Whether these changes were due to effective treatment at an early age or other factors was not determined.
A more recent study in 2019 was conducted of 38 children diagnosed with autism at an average age of two and a half, and who no longer met the diagnostic criteria four years later. These children were followed up by a research team that discovered most of the children still displayed some level of emotional/behavioral and learning problems. These children continued to need educational supports, and all but 3 of the 38 demonstrated learning or behavioral issues and mood disorders, such as anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Most of the children in the study whose symptoms disappeared had been diagnosed with mild autism traits to begin with.
The short answer then, is that most children do not outgrow autism, even if their symptoms subside as they get older. If a person with autism appears to outgrow their symptoms, it is likely they were not accurately diagnosed. According to the DSM-5, the diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals to identify and diagnose mental health conditions, symptoms of autism start at a young age and continue throughout life. Adults with autism may learn to better manage their feelings and behaviors and therefore mask their challenges from others, but basic differences remain.
With appropriate therapies and interventions, ideally starting in preschool years, many children with autism can and do improve their social, behavioral, learning, and communications skills. While most will require some level of support throughout life, adults with autism can live independently, hold jobs, and form satisfying friendships and relationships.
Harsha Autism Center provides ongoing care for children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 2-22) with autism to improve the quality of their lives. If you would like learn more about how Harsha Autism Center can help please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (812) 233-8833.