National Autistic Society
First and foremost, as is stated in this article, this is an extremely small sample size for a study so everyone should factor that into the formation of their opinions. Not to put too fine a point on it but just as there are a multitude of factors that may cause (or contribute to the cause of ) each individual’s autism diagnosis, there exists a multitude of possible outcomes as well. This study is not groundbreaking when reasoned intuitively: even neurotypical persons change (intellectually, behaviorally) over the course of their lifetime. It is no stretch to suppose that autistics are capable of those same changes, albeit at a different rate; adaptation is the hallmark of all humans, especially if assisted with appropriate therapies aimed at that improvement. Does this mean autistics can ‘recover’ as (gulp) a certain Playboy model/mother/media whore claims happened to her son? Can HFAs truly ‘grow out of it’? Sounds like semantics to me. Or rather, it sounds like the natural order of things; like I’ve said before: Onward and Upward. The possibilities are endless -Ed
Some young children accurately diagnosed as autistic lose their symptoms and their diagnosis as they get older, say US researchers.
The findings of the National Institutes of Health study of 112 children appears to challenge the widely held belief that autism is a lifelong condition.
Is a label of autism lifelong?
While not conclusive, the study, in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, suggests some children might possibly outgrow autism.
But experts urge caution.
Much more work is needed to find out what might explain the findings.
Dr Deborah Fein and her team at the University of Connecticut studied 34 children who had been diagnosed with autism in early childhood but went on to function as well as 34 other children in their classes at school.
“Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes”
Dr Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health
On tests – cognitive and observational, as well as reports from the children’s parents and school – they were indistinguishable from their classroom peers. They now showed no sign of problems with language, face recognition, communication or social interaction.
For comparison, the researchers also studied another 44 children of the same age, sex and non-verbal IQ level who had had a diagnosis of “high-functioning” autism – meaning they were deemed to be less severely affected by their condition.
It became clear that the children in the optimal outcome group – the ones who no longer had recognisable signs of autism – had had milder social deficits than the high-functioning autism group in early childhood, although they did have other autism symptoms, like repetitive behaviours and communication problems, that were as severe.
The researchers went back and checked the accuracy of the children’s original diagnosis, but found no reason to suspect that they had been inaccurate.
Label for life?
The researchers say there are a number of possible explanations for their findings.
It might be that some children genuinely outgrow their condition. Or perhaps some can compensate for autism-related difficulties.
Dr Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said: “Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes.
- People with autism usually have difficulties with social communication, social interaction and social imagination
- It is a spectrum condition meaning while all people with autism share certain difficulties, the condition affects them differently
- There are over 500,000 people with autism in the UK – that’s one in every 100
- There is no cure but there are a range of interventions available
“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.”
It could be that autism cannot always be accurately defined or diagnosed, particularly since the condition affects people in different ways.
Indeed, experts have disagreed about what autism is.
The American Psychiatric Association is currently revising its diagnostic manual – the “bible” for doctors that lists every psychiatric disorder and their symptoms.
Its new version proposes changes he UK’s National Autistic Society says could affect the way diagnoses will be given to people on the autism spectrum.
“With intensive therapy and support, it’s possible for a small sub-group of high functioning individuals with autism to learn coping behaviours and strategies which would ‘mask’ their underlying condition”
Dr Judith Gould, National Autistic Society
Instead of using the current terms of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified), people will be given an umbrella diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder”.
And their impairments will be reduced to two main areas – social communication/interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities.
Most diagnoses in the UK are based on the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), published by the World Health Organization, which is up for revision in 2015.
According to the National Autistic Society, more than one in every 100 people, more than 500,000 people in all, in the UK have autism.
About a fifth, an estimated 106,000, are school-aged children.
Dr Judith Gould, director of the National Autistic Society’s Lorna Wing Centre for Autism, said: “Autism is a lifelong disability affecting the way that people communicate and interact with others.
“This study is looking at a small sample of high functioning people with autism and we would urge people not to jump to conclusions about the nature and complexity of autism, as well its longevity.
“With intensive therapy and support, it’s possible for a small sub-group of high functioning individuals with autism to learn coping behaviours and strategies which would ‘mask’ their underlying condition and change their scoring in the diagnostic tests used to determine their condition in this research.
“This research acknowledges that a diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time and it is important to recognise the support that people with autism need in order to live the lives of their choosing.”
She said getting a diagnosis could be a critical milestone for children with autism and their families, often helping parents to understand their children better and helping them to support their children in reaching their full potential.
- For Some Children, Autism Symptoms May Fade With Age (news.health.com)
I read this article and thought: is this something that a real parent would do? Let’s suppose that this is the case; it would involve an extremely well-planned and connected conspiracy that involves the parent, pediatrician, likely a developmental neurologist, and service providers such as Early Intervention teachers, Speech and Language therapists, among others. Conspiracy theorists will argue that this absolutely happens; why else are the Autism numbers increasing? Others will argue that the numbers increase because pediatricians and teachers are better versed at recognizing the characteristic traits of Autism, moreso than in generations past.
Another check and balance of the diagnosis is that children on the Spectrum are constantly evaluated to see whether more services (or less) are warranted; most school districts are under the same financial scrutiny as any other business entity and more often than not seek to limit supplemental services that parents fight for. These services are based on continual evaluation of progress and mastery of tasks.
Children on the Spectrum enrolled in Special Education classes are not in an advantageous position. Some parents may see the 6-1-1 and 12-1-1 configurations and see that as desireable, as compared to typical class sizes of 20+ students to 1 teacher. But the curriculum and pace of the Special Education class is not anywhere near that of the typical class, so any perceived gains made by the smaller ratios is erased by the curriculum covered. Students on the Spectrum are constantly trying to catch up.
Some of these same conspiracy theorists will argue that if an older child is diagnosed, for example, with Asperger’s Syndrome, it will afford them with extra time to take tests, among other ‘reasonable accomodations’. Federal laws, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act, which defines such accomodations, is not specific to Autism; speech and language delays, physical disabilities, other learning disabilities are also included. These accomodations do not take into account a student’s intellectual capacity per se; after giving a student an additional 50% more time to take a test for example, the student is graded on the the same criteria along with typical students.
As prevalent as Autism is, it is not the norm for children. As difficult as it is for parents and families to accept this initial diagnosis (and universally, it is a difficult pill for parents to swallow) I find it incredulous that parents would conspire to achieve it unnecessarily. This premise does not significantly explain the rise in Autism numbers: the numbers are real. In my opinion, some so-called experts are not.
Sociology professor Frank Furedi said this partly explains the latest Government figures that say the number of schoolchildren who are classified as being autistic has soared by 56 per cent in the last five years.
There are now 61,570 schoolchildren in the state-funded sector that have been recorded as having some kind of autistic spectrum disorder and they make up almost one percent of the entire school population.
Just five years ago, the number of children classified as being autistic was just 39,465 and they accounted for just 0.5 per cent of the school population.
“It is unlikely to be a genuine unprecedented increase in autism, rather an institutional use of this condition to allow people to get easier access to resources.
“This activity ends up trivialising what is a very serious condition for some children.”
The Government’s definition of autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people, and how a person makes sense of the world around them.
The term is used to cover a variety of autistic conditions including Asperger’s syndrome. Data from the Department of Education shows that in 2006 autistic children made up just one in every 200 pupils.
The latest figures put that ratio at one in every 125 children. Autism can cause learning problems for children.
Around 20 per cent of autistic pupils have been suspended from school more than once and around 50 per cent say they have been bullied at school.
Nick Seaton, a spokesman for the Campaign for Real Education, said: “Obviously children with autism need special treatment.
“But the rapid increase does suggest that perhaps the figures should be looked at again.
“Children should not be classified as having special needs too easily. The rise should be examined closely because it has a knock-on effect for teachers, schools and the pupils themselves.”
Caroline Hattersley, Head of Information, Advice and Advocacy at The National Autistic Society, said: “A recent NHS study revealed that the prevalence of autism is 1 in 100 and that the same rate applies for adults as for children.
“We know that with accurate diagnosis the right support can be put in place so that children with autism can reach their full potential.
“It’s very likely that all teachers and school staff will come into contact with children with autism at some stage during their teaching career, so it’s vital that they receive quality training and strategies to support these children in the classroom.”