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Surprising new study finding sheds hope for children with an autism diagnosis

by , 17 January 2013

Vaccines are feared to make children sicker by stunting their immune systems and potentially contributing to the increasing rates of autism. Because the underlying causes for each case of autism differ, autism is virtually impossible to treat. But a recent NIH-funded study offers surprising new findings about a group of children with confirmed autism symptoms that could change the outlook of children diagnosed with it!

The study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, has confirmed that some children who are accurately diagnosed with autism lose the symptoms and the diagnosis as they grow older. The research team made the finding by carefully documenting a prior diagnosis of autism in a small group of school-age children and young adults with no current symptoms of autism.
The report is the first of a series that will probe more deeply into the nature of the change in these children’s status. Having been diagnosed at one time with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), these young people now appear to be on par with typically developing peers. 
“Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes,” said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, MD. “For an individual child, the outcome may be knowable only with time and after some years of intervention. Subsequent reports from this study should tell us more about the nature of autism and the role of therapy and other factors in the long-term outcome for these children.”
Prior studies had examined the possibility of a loss of diagnosis, but questions remained regarding the accuracy of the initial diagnosis, and whether children who ultimately appeared similar to their mainstream peers initially had a relatively mild form of autism. 
The investigators evaluated the current status of the children using standard cognitive and observational tests and parent questionnaires. The children had to be in regular education classrooms with no special education services aimed at autism. They now showed no signs of problems with language, face recognition, communication, and social interaction.
One surprising factor may be behind autism symptom loss …
This study can’t provide information on what percentage of children diagnosed with ASD might eventually lose the symptoms. The verbal IQs of the optimal outcome children were slightly higher than those with high functioning autism. Additional study may reveal whether IQ may have been a factor in the transition they made.
“All children with ASD are capable of making progress with intensive therapy, but with our current state of knowledge, most do not achieve the kind of optimal outcome that we are studying,” said Dr Fein. "Our hope is that further research will help us better understand the mechanisms of change so that each child can have the best possible life."
Here’s how playing outside in the sun might help …
Still worried about autism? John Cannell, a psychiatrist and vitamin D advocate, believes that vitamin D deficiency could be behind the explosion in autism. So it’s time to get outside and play, upping the amount of Vitamin D in your system, for better overall health!
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