Treatment May Improve the Outcome for Autistics by Age 6

autistic kids who show improvement

 

 

1 in 68 children in the US is affected by autism. According to a new study in Canada, more than 10% of these children will remarkably improve by age 6 while nearly 20% will make significant gains in everyday functioning.

In their study, Canadian researchers followed the lives of 421 children from the onset of their early diagnosis until their sixth year of age. They tracked the improvements and setbacks each child displayed in the hopes that they would be able to identify precisely how many autistic children could improve by the age of 6.

Though the study succeeded in identifying a rate, it struggled in terms of operationalizing just what “improvement” was. For some children, this meant an increase in adaptive functioning; for others it meant an improvement in their symptoms.

For the children whose symptoms improved via communication and socialization, they did not necessarily decrease non-adaptive behaviors such as hand flapping. Meanwhile, for some of the other children whose symptoms did not improve (i.e. were nonverbal or antisocial), they were able to learn to suppress behaviors like hand flapping. The significance? Clearly there needs to be more research.

Despite this murky definition of “improvement,” the study does show some promise for children with severe early onset autism. Though the percentage of improvements was low, it signifies that perhaps early treatment can in fact make a significant difference.

Sara Power, Fordham University

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