Welcome to The Naturally4Baby
'Kids grow out of autism' claim unfounded
Can some children simply “grow out” of autism? The Daily Mail certainly thinks so, and today reported that new research by a “prestigious American university” claims that “not only is this possible, it’s also common.”
The Mail’s claim is misleading and may offer a false impression to the parents of children with autism. It centres on a piece of research which looked at a completely different aspect of autism. The study assessed how the presence of other developmental conditions related to the diagnosis of autism. To do this, researchers looked at parent survey data relating to children with a current diagnosis of autism and children who had previously been diagnosed but no longer met criteria for diagnosis. It generally found that children with a current diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) were more likely to also have certain other conditions than those who no longer met the diagnostic criteria.
Diagnosing ASD is challenging, especially since the condition is often accompanied by other developmental disorders. Specialists also recognise that children who once met diagnostic criteria for an ASD may no longer do so at a later point, possibly because of care and management or because of an initial misdiagnosis. However, this study only suggests that conditions which occur at the same time may complicate the diagnosis of ASD, and does not support the claim that many children will simply “grow out of it”.
Where did the story come from?
The study was carried out by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Maryland, and Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. There is no information about external funding. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Pediatrics.
The Daily Mail’s report misleadingly linked the study with the case of a boy who was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of three but who, according to the paper, had undergone a “transformation by the age of nine”. While the article described improvements in the boy’s symptoms, it did not reveal whether the child has a current diagnosis of autism.
The newspaper said that, according to the study, this type of transformation is “far from unique”, and that 453 of the 1,366 sets of parents questioned during the study said their children had “grown out of” a previous diagnosis of ASD. It also quoted one of the study’s authors as saying “there’s a lot of moldability of the developing brain.”
Despite suggestions otherwise, the study did not look at whether children grow out of the condition. Instead, it looked at how common other developmental and psychological problems are among children with an ongoing diagnosis of ASD. It then compared these children with autism to children who reportedly had one of these developmental or psychological conditions in the past but who were no longer considered to have one.
The Mail did report the opinion of independent experts at the end of its story.
To read more of this article from NHS Choices click here