As many as ten percent of children who are living with autism at age 3 have "bloomed" by age 8 to the point of being able to attend mainstream school, a new study has found. Some symptoms remain throughout childhood and into young adulthood, but most of the debilitating behavioral and cognitive issues that are initially associated with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) virtually disappear in those children.
A child at the low end of the communication scale might not be able to talk, or even to make any sounds, explained the study's lead author Christine Fountain, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University. Those at the other end of the scale "would have a broad vocabulary, understand the meaning of words and use them in appropriate contexts, understand the meaning of story plot and carry on complex conversations," she explained.
Similarly, a child with a low score on the social scale would have problems interacting with others and would not be able to make friends or socialize. At the high end of the scale, is a child who "would initiate one-on-one interactions with both peers and others in familiar and unfamiliar settings, initiate and maintain friendships, and not need encouragement to participate in social activities," Fountain said.
"Bloomers" are edging up towards the upper half of both those scales.
Fountain and her colleagues didn't expect to see kids jump from the low end to the high end in just a few short years. "It was a surprise to see how much improvement they showed – and how quickly," Fountain said. "That's kind of hopeful message."
The study found that early interventions can take much of the credit for the improvement these children and their families experience.
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