Can Some Kids Outgrow Autism?

April 8th, 2019

TUESDAY, March 19, 2019 (HealthDay News) —

Some toddlers thought to have mild autism “outgrow” the diagnosis, but most continue to struggle with language and behavior, new research suggests.

autism-screening-hearing testThe study is not the first to document cases of autism “recovery.” Doctors have known for decades that a small number of young children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) seem to outgrow it.

But what does that mean for those kids? The findings suggest that the vast majority continue to face challenges and need support, said lead researcher Dr. Lisa Shulman.

Her team found that of the 38 children who “lost” their autism diagnosis, most were found to have other conditions — including learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety disorders.

Why did the picture change for those children?

That’s the “million-dollar question,” said Shulman, a professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Health System in New York City.

One possibility is that the initial diagnosis was wrong. But it’s also possible some children responded to early therapy aimed at supporting their development.

Shulman suspects both scenarios are true.

The 569 children in the study were diagnosed before the age of 3. And what looks like an autism in a 2-year-old may start manifesting differently as the child grows, Shulman explained. For example, that 2-year-old may actually have an anxiety disorder, but children that age simply can’t express what they’re feeling. It only becomes clearer when the child is a little older.

“I do think there is a group of children who were probably never going to have autism,” Shulman said. “And there are some who respond to early intervention.”

James Connell is clinical core director of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute in Philadelphia. He agreed that in toddlers, it can be “difficult to pin down” whether it’s autism or something else.

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