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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Anonymous said...

My son Stephen is 15 and has Aspergers Syndrome. He has come a long way but he still has a lot of symptoms that usually get better by this age. He still jumps, rocks, claps his hands, makes noises. He still has a lot of sensory issues and trouble talking with people (except his parents and close relatives). He is incredibly book smart and always does well academically but socially and in other basic ways he struggles. In his teenage years, he has developed a lot of irrational fears. For instance, if he gets a paper cut he is afraid it may affect his brain and he could die. He is also scared of things like fire, disease, etc. I know he is at that age where hormones don’t help and his father and I have tried to comfort him regarding his fears. I feel so terrible for him and I don’t know what else to do to help. I wondered if you had heard of this with other children with AS and I wondered if you knew of anything we could do with him that would help.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this info. I had signed up for the newsletter and wasn't sure how this worked. I will look forward to being on board and thank you for your work. It is a blessing more than you know. :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Hutten,

I don't know what inspires you to publish so much important information for free, but I just want to thank you. You are really an incredible person - so knowledgeable, so helpful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have learned so much from you.

Anonymous said...

I am always looking for any advise I can get to help me to help my daughter. But first a little background info... My husband Randall and I (Denise) are the parents of Drew Ana, she is 6 1/2 yrs old. We adopted her about 3 years ago but she has lived with us since just after her 1st birthday. my oldest daughter was her mother and a meth addict . She had used at least during the first couple months of her pregnancy. Drew was born at 26 weeks ( approx. 6 mo) weighing
2lbs 4oz. She spent 3 mo. In the NICU. She had some major lung problems and 17 transfusions. She spent the next 9 mo. with her mother who started using drugs again and went to jail. We brought Drew to our house and she has been with us ever since . She is the light of our lives.
When Drew came with us we noticed she cried a lot and sometimes couldn't be consoled. We thought it was because of all the new changes in her life but as time went on we noticed things were just not normal with her. She had a lot of strange quirks for lack of a better word. Some things she would do we're, get extremely upset if she heard another baby cry, she would cry before going to sleep and want to be rocked but not touched and I would have to sing the same song over and over until she exhausted herself, we could never have family get togethers because she would get so upset we would have to ask everyone to leave, which with us having 7 other grandchildren didn't go over very well because they all thought Drew was just spoiled. Well as time has went on Drew has had a lot of different obsessions with objects, cartoon characters, ect. She was saying her ABCs before she walked and reading since she was 4yrs old. She has been diagnosed with PDD, OCD, ADHD,ODD.
She Has started 1st grade this year. She goes part days in the autism class and part in her regular class. She has a very hard time using a pencil. Writing or coloring is always real challenge. She gets very upset if anyone coughs, sneezes , blows their nose, or crys . She also has a strange quirk that I call the YES NO THING, when she starts getting upset about anything she will want to do or have something she sees and will say she wants it but as soon as you give it to her she will immediately say she dose not want it then immediately say she does, this may go on for long periods of time and turn into being everything that is said or done she wants to do or say. It's very exhausting to her and us. I know that may be hard to understand but putting it into words is very hard as well. I've never heard of anyone else with this particular quirk and wonder if you would have any suggestions on how to help me help her control this. It is so hard to help her come out of this she it usually screaming and stiffening up her body and jumping up and dropping to her knees a typical meltdown I guess. There is so much more but I've already written so much, any help would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

My 17 month son, very active and a clever boy. His mum and I have separated she has Aspergers. He very distressed with her and head bangs a lot. With me he does now and again when annoyed. He doesn't like being looked at sometimes. I took him for a swim and he frowned when others approached to say hello to him. He pushes his niece and nephew away when with my mum in her arms. I stress he may have Aspergers and it hurts to think. Please email me back and help me through these times. My son waves at people some he doesn't even know, points at things he sees example aeroplane tractor etc. I just don't know what to think. Can asperger people be a success in life?

Anonymous said...

I have been following the links you post in Linked In on occasion, and I can related to much of what you are putting our there in my experience parenting Kyle. Some of the things that worked I learned the hard way, some I stumbled on by accident and a few were actually suggested by a therapist. You are doing a huge service to everyone dealing with these kids by putting this information out there – thanks for your commitment to improving the quality of life for both the Aspie’s and their parents, teachers and therapists!

Anonymous said...

People get confused. They think that when parents or proffesionals say that a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder made improvements or can now talk or now has friends that we are claiming they are cured. No. That is not what is being said. Like what Peggy said, they will always have autism. But they may finally be able to feel accepted, loved and productive in their own right.

Anonymous said...

RE: Source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/01/18/peds.2011-1717.abstract

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