Can Children on the Autism Spectrum "Outgrow" Their Disabilities?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Autism now affects 1 in 88 kids (although other estimates say it's more like 1 in 60), and is becoming a challenge shared by more and more American families.

The good news: About 10% of kids with low-functioning Autism outgrow most of their severe disabilities by the time they become teenagers. NOTE: Let's be clear about this. The 10% of young people sited in the research continue to have the disorder, but most of the major debilitating symptoms have diminished significantly.

A recent study offers some good news for parents with Autistic children: most kids affected by Autism don’t have intellectual disabilities. Even among the severely low-functioning ones, about 10% improve significantly over time with some outgrowing their diagnosis by their teenage years.

The research tracked approximately 7,000 Autistic kids in California for a total of 9 years. These children were followed from diagnosis to age 14 (or the oldest age they had reached by the time the data collection was completed).

The study found that 63% of these kids didn’t have intellectual disabilities. Although Autism is known to cause cognitive deficits in some kids, it is also associated with certain enhanced intellectual abilities – and some affected kids have extremely high IQs.

About 33% of the children involved in the study were considered low- to low/medium-functioning in terms of social and communication skills (i.e., they had trouble talking, socializing, and making friends).

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

Children with High-Functioning Autism can communicate effectively with others, maintain friendships, and are willing to engage in social activities. While the highest-functioning kids tended to show the most improvement over time in the study, about 10% of those who started out in the low-functioning group also moved into the highest group by age 14.

The critical finding is that the kids who seemed very low-functioning at the beginning of the study – and then did extremely well – tended not to have any intellectual disabilities. The low-functioning kids without intellectual disabilities were 50% more likely to outgrow their diagnosis as those who had cognitive deficits.

The earlier a youngster receives help for Autism, the more likely he is to overcome this disorder. Early intervention is paramount since the brain is remarkably vulnerable early in life and built to shape itself to the environmental challenges it initially faces. The young mind is extremely receptive to input, whether it is positive or negative. This is why younger kids can learn a second language easily – and why early exposure to violence and environmental stress are so incredibly harmful.

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism
If, for example, kids with Autism receive intervention before such coping strategies as repetitive behaviors and social withdrawal are deep-rooted, their innate over-sensitivity to environmental stress is far less likely to become disabling – plus their other talents can burgeon. Therapists can actually start to change brain functioning if they provide the right kind of ongoing and focused intervention. But this only happens when these kids are reached early enough. Once the ‘window of opportunity’ has passed, it is much more difficult to treat Autism.

Parents should have a doctor screen their child for Autism at her 18-month well-child visit. A lot depends on how good that parent is at advocating for the youngster. Moms and dads need to be aware not only of what services are available, but also which ones are best, which are not helpful, and how to get the best care.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


•    Anonymous said... My daughter has Asperger's and I have found that as she matures many of her gifts are becoming more acceptable in society. So it's not so much she is becoming someone else as it is she is growing into her own skin amd becoming more comfortable and confident in expressing herself. She has learned how to cope and read social cues better and is taking active interest in putting her talents to work for her. If she has any "disabilities", it is that there are still "normal" people out there who think that all children must act the same.
•    Anonymous said... I am going for a evaluation for my son. Nothing seems normal about his behavior. Its not just ADHD. I know it. I just feel so bad because I don't have a clue how to respond to him. But he has ALL the characteristics and now its starting to make sense.
•    Anonymous said... Aspie's learn coping skills and the ability to imitate "normal" behavior, they conform themselves to fit in to normal society, so they are not "normal" they are ACTING normal.just wanted to add that we are an aspie family as my brothers, and my partner have aspergers all adults.

*   Anonymous said... My daughter is going to 17 in August we finally had a confirmed diagnoses four days after she turned 15 after 10 and a half years of being told she was ADHD since then I have been told she has ODD (ADHD) still in the picture, and chronic anxiety. single mum in a very small 2 bed unit. am currently sharing a room with my 14 year old daughter to give my special girl her own space.... hate my self every day for not being able to have the tools to deal with her meltdowns................. feel lost most of the time.. I know deep down I am doing the best I can...... but sick of feeling like I'm in a whirl wind most of the time... I can go weeks with things ok but at times I just want to give up.. after being a single parent for 15 years.. I just keep picking my self up give myself a good talking TOO and get on with my job.... BUT I KEEP thinking HOW long can I keep doing this???? When is it me time?

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