Autism may fade with time, but not often

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An individual diagnosed with an autism disorder during childhood may no longer fall in the autism spectrum as an adult, suggests a new study. As adults, their social functioning is very good, they re all functioning in mainstream education with no support, says study author Deborah Fein, a professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut who studies autism.

The study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, looked at 34 individuals, ages 18 to 21 with a previous autism diagnosis, but who now seemed to have grown out of it. They no longer displayed problems with language, communication, social interaction and facial recognition. The study also looked at whether those individuals really had autism in the first place and whether they are really now functioning as normal people. In both cases, the answer was yes, says Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institutes of Mental Health.

And although Fein says that many studies have found that behavioral interventions may improve social function and cognition in children with autism, she says that parents should keep this study in perspective. This is not a common outcome. We don t know what the percent is it s almost certainly under 25 percent, and it may be significantly lower than that.

Furthermore, with scientists now identifying 25 gene variants that may increase the chance that a person will have autism, it is hard to grasp the idea that one may cease to have autism following a diagnosis.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross was not impressed: I believe that at least some segment of recovered ASD patients can be attributed to the ever-expanded diagnostic criteria for the condition that has contributed to the massive increase in the number of cases over the past twenty-plus years. As for this study, there are no quantitative data presented, so it amounts to little more than a feeling on the part of the authors.