In Kids Who Lose Autism Label, Struggles Often Persist
Some children diagnosed with autism lose the label as they age, new research suggests, but most continue to face other issues even though they’re no longer on the spectrum.
In a study of 569 children diagnosed with autism as toddlers, 38 no longer met the criteria for the developmental disorder when they were re-evaluated four years later.
Among those who lost their autism diagnosis, researchers saw improvements in socialization and cognitive functioning. Initially, most qualified for an intellectual disability diagnosis as well, but nearly all had typically IQs when they were evaluated the second time around.
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Nonetheless, all but three of the kids no longer on the spectrum continued to struggle with learning, emotional or behavioral issues, the study found.
“Autism generally has been considered a lifelong condition, but 7 percent of children in this study who received an early diagnosis experienced a resolution of autistic symptoms over time,” said Lisa Shulman, a developmental pediatrician at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine who presented the findings this week at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Diego.
“Understanding the full range of possible positive outcomes in this scenario is important information for parents, clinicians and the educational system,” Shulman said.
All of the kids in the study were living in the Bronx and they were monitored and provided intervention by clinicians with a university-affiliated multidisciplinary team.
Shulman and her colleagues found that of the children no longer qualifying for an autism diagnosis, 68 percent had language difficulties or learning disabilities. About half had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or other behavioral problems and a quarter had mood or anxiety issues.
About 20 percent of kids who lost their diagnosis remained in self-contained classrooms, but the majority continued to need academic supports, the study found.