A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics has found that a significant number of young children diagnosed with autism may no longer meet the criteria for the condition by the age of 7. The study looked at 213 children who were diagnosed with autism between the ages of 12 to 36 months and reevaluated them at 5 to 7 years old after receiving some form of treatment. The research found that nearly 40% of the children were no longer considered autistic by age 7.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), encompasses a range of conditions that involve challenges with social skills, repetitive behavior, speech, and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects 1 in 36 children in the United States.
To meet the criteria for an ASD diagnosis, a child must have persistent challenges in three areas of social communication and interaction, as well as two of four types of restricted, repetitive behaviors. The study found that children who received therapy and treatment for their ASD showed improvements in these areas, leading to the removal of their diagnosis.
The study also revealed that higher baseline adaptive skills between the ages of 12 to 36 months and being female were associated with non-persistent ASD. This means that girls and children with better communication and decision-making skills were more likely to no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for ASD.
The study emphasizes the importance of early intervention following an autism diagnosis. Behavioral interventions, such as Applied Behavioral Analysis, are recommended to help children improve their social communication skills and overall development. Speech and occupational therapies can also be beneficial in helping children find effective ways to communicate.
It is important for children with autism to receive continued assessments throughout their development, as the diagnosis may evolve over time. Doctors are still working to understand why some children develop autism, but factors such as having a sibling with autism, older parents, certain genetic conditions, and very low birth weight may increase the risk.
In conclusion, early intervention and ongoing assessments are crucial for managing symptoms of autism in young children. The study's findings highlight the potential for positive outcomes with appropriate therapy and treatment.