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Autism study suggests disorder can be outgrown

April 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Autism is thought to be a lifelong disorder but new research produced some interesting results.

A small study suggests that some people diagnosed with autism can possibly outgrow it. The findings have got some experts changing the way they think about autism.

Jack's mom Leslie Griggs knew something was different about her son Jack.

"He wasn't making a lot of eye contact. He didn't have any words," Griggs said.

Jack has autism. Leslie says daily therapy sessions have made all the difference for him.

"He seems like he's more aware of us being in his world," Griggs said. "He's not in his own little world anymore."

While Jack has shown big improvements, a University of Connecticut study suggests some kids may actually outgrow the disorder.

Researchers looked at 34 patients with autism who were diagnosed by age five, but now appear to function normally. The study found they no longer meet the criteria for autism. In fact, the autism patients performed just as well as typical children in tests looking at socialization and communication.

"Now I can tell them there's a chance that your kid might outgrow it," Our Children's House Director Chaouki Khoury said.

Khoury says, he's encouraged by the new study, even though the research did not examine why the patients seemed to outgrow the disorder.

"How do you outgrow biting your nails? You learn not to bite them," Khoury said. "So outgrowing a behavioral problem is basically learning a different behavior that takes over."

Some believe it's the intensive therapies that cause the dramatic improvements; others think the kids may be on a different part of the autism spectrum that predisposes them to outgrow the condition without therapy.

Leslie hopes, with therapy, Jack will swing into even bigger improvements and possibly outgrow his autism.

"Every parent, I think, hopes the diagnosis will fall off," Griggs said.

Researchers are now analyzing data to see if there is a link between certain types of therapy and optimal outcomes. Based on previous studies, some believe that between 10 and 20 percent of children who are diagnosed with autism may achieve these optimal outcomes.


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