Could children outgrow autism?
Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the US.
Researchers thought of it as a life-long disorder, but that might not be the case.
A new study is changing the way many of them view autism.
Jack's mom Leslie knew something was different about her son.
"He wasn't making a lot of eye contact. He didn't have any words,” described Leslie Griggs.
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. He's not in his own little world anymore."
While jack has shown big improvements, a new 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, in tests looking at socialization and communication, the autism patients performed just as well as typical children.
Chaouki Khoury is the director of Our Childen’s House at Baylor Dallas.
"Now I can say there's a chance that your kid might outgrow it,” says Khoury.
He 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?,” asks Khoury. “You learn not to bite them. 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 her son Jack will experience even bigger improvements and possibly outgrow his autism.
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 between 10 and 20-percent of children who were diagnosed with autism may achieve optimal outcomes.
BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. (SOURCE: www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism)
CAUSES: Autism is a physical condition linked to abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain. The exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown, but this is a very active area of research. There are probably a combination of factors that lead to autism. A number of other possible causes have been suspected, but not proven. They involve:
* Digestive tract changes
* The body's inability to properly use vitamins and minerals
* Vaccine sensitivity
SYMPTOMS: Most parents of autistic children suspect that something is wrong by the time the child is 18 months old and seek help by the time the child is age two. Children with autism typically have difficulties in pretend play and social interaction. A number of children with an ASD do not like cuddling or being touched like other children do. ASD symptoms may vary from moderate to severe; the higher the severity of the autism, the more affected are a person's speaking skills. Many children with an ASD do not speak at all. People with autism will often repeat words or phrases they hear - an event called echolalia. (SOURCE: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/; www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/autism)
TREATMENT: An early, intensive, appropriate treatment program will greatly improve the outlook for most young children with autism. Most programs will build on the interests of the child in a highly structured schedule of constructive activities. Visual aids are often helpful. Treatment is most successful when it is geared toward the child's particular needs. An experienced specialist or team should design the program for the individual child. A variety of therapies are available, including:
* Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
* Physical therapy
* Speech-language therapy
TREATMENT COST: Treatment is extremely expensive. Direct medical and nonmedical costs can add up to as much as $72,000 a year for someone with an extreme case of the disorder, and even $67,000 a year for those on the lower end of the spectrum. But there are a number of governmental financial resources available and some organizations provide scholarships, family grants, and other types of funding specifically to individuals with autism to help pay for autism-related expenses. The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism is committed to funding organizations that provide direct services and family support grants to individuals with autism and their families. (SOURCE: http://www.autismspeaks.org)
For More Information, Contact:
Chaouki K. Khoury, M.D., M.S.
Our Children's House at Baylor