Parents News Now

Autism Recovery Possible for Small Number, Study Confirms

The dream of every parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)--improvement to the point where the child no longer meets the diagnostic criteria for the disorder--is actually within reach for a small group of ASD patients, a new study led by researchers at the University of Connecticut has found.  As Richard Rende writes in his blog, Red Hot Parenting, the new study is the best clinical evidence to date that recovery is an option for some with ASD.  From Richard's post analyzing the new study:

A team of researchers (led by Dr. Deborah Fein at the University of Connecticut) identified 34 individuals with suspected recovery who had a clear documented history of ASD, but no longer met diagnostic criteria for it. By comparing this group to two other groups – a high-functioning ASD group (44 individuals), and a typical development group without ASD (34 individuals) – the study reported these two key findings:

  • The 34 potential recovery cases not only no longer met criteria for ASD, but in fact lost all symptoms of ASD
  • Their social and communicative functioning was within the nonautistic range (and as a group similar to the typical development group)

The study authors suggested the phrase "optimal outcome" for these individuals to convey the idea that their overall functioning across multiple domains was in the normative range. There was a wide age range in the sample – from 8 to 21 years – and the conclusion was that some children with a diagnosis and history of autism may in fact go on to experience an optimal outcome later in development.

More reports will come in the future from this research group on this sample. In particular, they will be analyzing collected data on intervention history to see if there were commonalities in those who experienced an optimal outcome. They will also be looking at psychiatric data to examine the possibility that some with optimal outcome experience anxiety, depression, and impulsivity.

For more on autism "recovery," see this related Parents News Now story from last April:  Study: Ten Percent of Kids 'Bloom' Out of Autism.

Image: Autism awareness ribbon, via Shutterstock