Wednesday January 23, 2013
SOME children diagnosed as autistic at a young age see their symptoms completely disappear when they become older, new research shows.
The small-scale study – published in the Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry – included 34 subjects who were diagnosed very early on with the disorder, but who, by ages 18 to 21, no longer exhibited any signs of it.
Unlike when they were little, the subjects no longer showed deficits in speech, communication, recognising faces or social interactions – all hallmarks of autism.
“Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes,” said Thomas Insel, director of the US National Institute of Mental Health.
Previous studies had already suggested it was possible for an autism diagnosis to disappear over time. But this research looked deeper into the legitimacy of the phenomenon.
The authors questioned whether the initial diagnosis had been accurate and whether the subjects had truly caught up to their peers. In both cases, it turned out the answer was yes.
The researchers, led by Deborah Fein of the University of Connecticut, reviewed the original reports written when the children were diagnosed and had them examined by additional experts outside the research group.
The data was compared to groups of young adults whose diagnoses of autism and its milder sibling, high-functioning autism, persisted, and to a control group.
The analysis showed that, among the 34 subjects whose autism symptoms had abated, doctors had originally observed lower levels of social deficits than among the subjects with high-functioning autism. But other symptoms, including language delays and repetitive behaviour, had been on par with the other group.
And the contemporary testing of the study subjects – all of whom attended school in mainstream classrooms with no special services – confirmed that the young adults no longer exhibited any deficits. – AFP