Can You Outgrow Autism Spectrum Disorder?

This is the question that parents around the world often ask. “Can my child overcome or outgrow autism?” Numerous studies that have been published over the years suggest that certain children can actually outgrow autism. However, outgrowing autism successfully is reliant on many details – such as the diagnosis and its treatment.

We at Stepping Stones are often asked:

  • “Will my child eventually outgrow autism spectrum disorder?

  • “Can my child’s behavior improve overtime?”

A study published in The Journal Pediatrics compared and studied over 1100 children between the ages of 4–16, who were diagnosed with ASD. The study reveals that a third of the studied children “outgrew” ASD. Although, a minority of children with ASD overcome developmental issues, experts caution that such a recovery is sporadic. If delved deeper, 1 in 68 children, in the U.S., who are on the spectrum outgrew the disorder.

In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1400 children with ASD were surveyed and about 11% – 13% of them did not display any characteristics of ASD as they grew up.

While many of us might think that these children, or parents of these children, may have found a miracle therapy or cure to ASD, the assumption is entirely false. Researchers have disproven the myth by theorizing that most of these children were either misdiagnosed or intentionally diagnosed with ASD.

“The study confirms that diagnosis of ASD can and often changes as children on the spectrum age and mature. They overcome delays,” says Stephen Blumberg, Associate Director for Science at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Parents long to hear those coveted words – “your child has outgrown ASD!” Their hope that their children can outgrow ASD is not wrong. It is what drives them. They regularly feel that with the right amount of care and support, the effect of ASD can be reduced over time. However, studies have found that intervention programs are often linked with some sort of brain activity and, therefore, the question of a child with ASD truly outgrowing the disorder remains too difficult to answer.

However, in one particular research that involved 34 individuals who were on the spectrum, aged between 8 and 21, such individuals were confirmed to longer meet the criteria for the disorder or condition.

Going back to the CDC’s research – they identified a few factors that are common among children who outgrew their diagnosis.

Based on parent feedback, the diagnosis in the children with ASD disappeared in:

  • Children who are able to eat without any assistance

  • Children who are able to use the bathroom without any help

  • Children who were less likely to be referred to a specialist

  • Children whose parents were less likely to be concerned about developmental markers such as verbal skills and learning ability

  • Children who ask for what they need, be it objects or information

The study goes on to add that children, who are on the spectrum, with a high IQ are likely to outgrow their ASD diagnosis.

Outgrowing ASD can be termed as a classic case of misdiagnosis. This is because parents tend to trust doctors or pediatricians who don’t specialize in treating or diagnosing the autism spectrum disorder. Parents have the responsibility to get their children diagnosed from certified experts.

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