Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or autism, is present from infancy or early childhood, but there is some speculation about whether the disorder can be outgrown over time.
Autism is mainly characterised by learning delays, repetitive movements and behaviours and difficulty with expressive or receptive communication. While this is the case for both adults and children, there are some suggestions that these symptoms are more noticeable at earlier stages of development. This is because children often develop social, communication and language skills quite rapidly at a young age, and many parents are keen to note when certain milestones have been met. Often, medical professionals use early-life milestones in their assessments, therefore when a child is delayed in reaching a milestone it is more likely to be noticed.
For many children with autism, although signs and symptoms are often noticeable very early on, they don’t always remain static. Even once a diagnosis has been given, the signs of autism from one child to another can change and vary significantly. As the child grows, it is completely possible that the child improves significantly in some areas that they previously experienced delays in. In this blog post, we will explain the fundamentals of autism, and look at whether the disorder can be outgrown. We will also touch on what can be done to help those with autism manage their symptoms.
Autism is a disorder that affects communication, but as a ‘spectrum’ disorder, symptoms often present fairly uniquely for each person. Autism is not an uncommon disorder. The National Autistic Society tells us that one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, and that there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK alone. Common signs of autism include:
In some cases, a lot of these autism symptoms can be mistaken for typical childhood development traits, causing misdiagnosis. Autism also shares similar symptoms to other unrelated disorders – for example, children may be diagnosed with autism when a more appropriate diagnosis might be Social Anxiety (due to the anxiety and social difficulties that are often observed in both ASD and social anxiety) or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) (due to the anxiety, repetitive and restrictive behaviours and resistance to change that is often noted both in ASD and OCD). Misdiagnosis and a lack of understanding of autism can cause confusion among parents and children with autism. The unpredictability and sometimes changing nature of symptoms could also imply that autism is something that comes and goes. All of this leads some to question: can autism go away?
The short answer to this question is no, autism is not something that can be completely ‘outgrown’ – but why do some people think it can be? Autism is a lifelong diagnosis, however due to several factors, symptoms may appear to improve overtime. Some mild traits of autism that are noticed in early childhood may be improved simply with natural cognitive development as the child grows. In addition, if the child receives good quality support, both at home and in an educational setting, it is possible that their development can be accelerated, despite their autism.
Those children with autism and above average IQs may appear to ‘outgrow’ autistic traits, but this might not always be the case. Children may simply get better at ‘masking’ their autistic symptoms by observing and mimicking social behaviour. Alternatively, they may have been misdiagnosed with autism, which means that when they appear ‘to grow out of it’, it can give off the perception that autism can be outgrown.
While autism cannot be outgrown, it’s safe to say that early diagnosis and personalised treatment plans, in some cases, can improve the symptoms of autism and help those with the disorder live lives that are less governed by their ausitic traits.
There are a number of ways to approach the management of autism symptoms, but it is worth noting that the sooner you can access an assessment for autism, the better. Symptoms of autism are often noticed at around 12-18 months, but in many cases, children can go several years, and even progress into adulthood, without a diagnosis. Understanding the condition and getting access to treatment will make the condition easier to understand and manage, so we recommend seeking an autism assessment if you are concerned that your child is showing delays in development that are akin to autism.
When it comes to treatment options, at Psymplicity Healthcare, symptoms that are associated with ASD can be treated in various ways, from behavioural therapy to medication. As previously mentioned, spectrum disorders like autism can present uniquely depending on the individual, so developing a personalised treatment plan is key for effective symptom management.
Following an initial assessment and diagnosis, we will formulate a bespoke treatment plan for the client based on their specific presentation, ensuring their individual needs are met. In both adult and child cases of autism, we would encourage family, educational institutes and workplaces to be included in the plan (where possible) to maximise their understanding of autism and the support the individual has outside our clinic.
Overtime, it is important that the treatment plan is reviewed regularly with a clinician. Particularly for children with autism, this can prove vital in accelerating their development, as we know difficulties stemming from autism can change as they grow – the treatment plan therefore needs to reflect this. Adapting the treatment plan is equally important when a child goes through various changes in their earlier lives, for example when changing schools as they grow older. It is important that the treatment plan adapts to these changes, helping the child to manage the change and transition as smoothly as possible and taking into account what facilities and support the new school has and including them in the treatment plan.
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