Growing out of Autism / Fact or Myth?

I’m starting with this short article because it sets up a starting point for what is a “touchy” subject; do some children Who are diagnosed as Autistic, Particularly those labeled Asperger, “grow out of” their symptoms?


Some Children Do Outgrow Autism, But It’s Not What You Think

The truth about kids who lose their autism diagnoses.

By Anna Almendrala

In the largest national study of children with autism to date, researchers examined one of the most mysterious aspects of autism spectrum disorder: that it sometimes simply vanishes.

An estimated 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the U.S., but researchers are beginning to take note of a small minority of children with ASD who seem to “grow out” of their diagnoses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed more than 1,400 children with ASD — the largest nationally representative sample of children with autism to date — and found that about 13 percent of them seemed to shed their ASD-associated behaviors as they grew up. (This is a tiny number of individuals, given the vast array of symptoms and sub-categories of diagnosis; the subjective nature of ASD diagnosis, the “social prejudice” behind the construction of the “spectrum” and sky-rocketing rates of diagnosis.)

The catch: that doesn’t mean they’ve stumbled upon some kind of miracle therapy or cure. Rather, as some previous researchers theorized, most of them were simply misdiagnosed or intentionally diagnosed with ASD for other reasons. 

“The present study confirms that ASD diagnoses can and sometimes do change as children mature and overcome delays, and as new information is assimilated by their healthcare providers,” said Stephen Blumberg, lead author and an associate director for science at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. (So-called “autism” ignores or rejects the longstanding fact that children do not development in “lock-step” with a highly overgeneralized and rigid prescription “invented” by psychologists. See “asynchronous development”)

Partnering with the University of Washington and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the CDC identified five factors that were most common among the children who went on to “outgrow” their diagnosis; these signs make it clear this subgroup was already higher functioning and had fewer symptoms at diagnosis.

Based on parent feedback, the diagnosis most often disappears in:

1.     Children who are able to use the bathroom without help

2.     Children who are able to eat without assistance

3.     Children who ask for what they need, be it objects or information

4.     Children whose parents were less likely to be concerned about developmental markers such as verbal skills and learning ability

5.     Children who were less likely to be referred to a specialist.

The study adds to a body of research on “lost” diagnoses that already suggests children most likely to outgrow ASD diagnoses are those with high IQs (over 70), early communication skills and intensive therapy. And children with certain sub-types of ASD, like Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD-NOS, are also more likely to lose their diagnosis.

Among parents whose child lost an ASD diagnosis, 73.5 percent said it was because they were given a new one, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (46 percent), anxiety problems (17 percent), depression (12 percent) learning disabilities (seven percent), behavioral problems (nine percent) or sensory, auditory, or processing disorders (23 percent).

Another 24 percent said they used the ASD diagnosis to access benefits and services. Meanwhile, 21 percent of parents believe their kids matured out of the disorder or received effective treatment. Less than 2 percent of patients believed their doctor simply got the diagnosis wrong.

The study can’t prove that over-diagnosis is becoming more common, the researchers wrote. However, heightened awareness about ASD and a push for more screening measures could be resulting in early, inaccurate diagnoses for ASD among doctors — especially in those who don’t specialize in the disorder.

The research was published in the journal Autism.


From Autism Science Foundation (see website for info about what they do)

How Common is Autism?

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) reported that approximately 1 in 68 children in the United States has been identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This rate remains the same as in 2014, which is the first time it has not risen. However, with respect to older data, this new estimate is roughly 30 percent higher than the previous estimate of 1 in 88 children reported in 2012. In the 1980s autism prevalence was reported as 1 in 10,000. In the nineties, prevalence was 1 in 2500 and later 1 in 1000.

It is problematic to compare autism rates over the last three decades, as the diagnostic criteria for autism have changed with each revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which outlines which symptoms meet the criteria for an ASD diagnosis. In 1983 the DSM did not recognize PDD-NOS or Asperger’s syndrome, and the criteria for autistic disorder (AD) were more restrictive. The previous edition of the DSM, DSM-IV, included autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, PDD-NOS, and Asperger’s Syndrome. Due to inconsistencies in diagnosis and how much we are still learning about autism, the most recent DSM (DSM 5) only has one diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which encompasses each of the previous four disorders. According to the new diagnostic criteria for ASD, one must have both deficits in social communication and interaction, and restricted repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities (RRBs). (RRBs as labeled here are incredibly negatively biased and subjective – “neuro-prejudiced” and a key POSITIVE characteristic of successful scientists, inventors, artists and musicians AND of “collectors” in general –  to equate behaviors such as “hand-flapping” or savant abilities with intense concentration on a “very specific scientific topic” is ludicrous.)

ASDs continue to be almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189) and they are reported in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Studies have been conducted in several continents (Asia, Europe, and North America) that report a prevalence rate of approximately 1 percent. A 2011 study reported a 2.6 percent prevalence of autism in South Korea.

Next post: The question of “growing out of Autism” in light of my personal experience.

2 thoughts on “Growing out of Autism / Fact or Myth?

  1. No – one does not ‘grow out of’ being autistic.

    One learns to hide who and what one is, developing the ‘instincts’ of a hunted anmal (e.g. a pariah dog) – while simultaneously developing some very hurtful ideas about the world and one’s place in it.


    • I’s say that some specific aspects can be “transcended” – negative adaptations to “normdom” can be understood cognitively and “unlearned” eventually, if they have become habits – given the right circumstances.


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