Autism Severity May Decrease in Early Childhood, According to New Study
Children with autism can experience reduced severity of their symptoms in early childhood, according to new findings from researchers at the University of California Davis. For their study, the researchers looked at 89 boys and 36 girls with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), which is considered the gold standard assessment tool in autism research. The researchers focused on a change in the severity score for children between the ages of 3 and 6, and separated them into groups based on their severity change score. A change of two points or more was designated as a significant change in the level of autism severity.
According to a report on the study by the Jakarta Post.com, 28.8 of the children participating in the study were placed in the “decreased severity” group, suggesting that the severity of autism symptoms in children can not only change, but improve over time. David Amaral, a senior author of the study, said he and his colleagues found that “nearly 30 percent of young children have less severe autism symptoms at age 6 than they did at age 3. In some cases, children lost their autism diagnoses entirely.” That being said, Amaral acknowledged that symptoms did appear to worsen in some of the children, and that predicting which child’s symptoms will worsen and which will improve is not possible at present. The researchers did find a greater decrease in autism severity among girls than boys, and a lower increase in severity during early childhood, suggesting that girls may be better at hiding their symptoms than boys.
The children with increased severity at age 6 showed lower severity at age 3, and their severity scores varied less than the other groups. Previous studies also showed a strong connection between changes in autism severity and intelligence quotient (I.Q.), suggesting that children with higher I.Q.s were more likely to experience a reduction in the severity of their symptoms.