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Some children may grow out of autism

24th January 2012

Autism tends to go hand in hand with ADHD and other developmental disorders, such as learning disabilities, making childhood autism diagnoses questionable, according to a recent US study.

10042006_brain1.jpgThe researchers found that children who are diagnosed with autism may actually have a variety of mental and behavioural conditions, which will need time to stabilise.

A proper diagnosis, which would ideally prove true over the course of a person's life, can only be given adequately when the child has finished developing.

And a broader approach to treatment would be more beneficial to children who have a broad range of developmental symptoms.

Susan Levy, an autism and child development researcher from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said that children who had a lot of mental and behavioural problems had a lot more difficulties than children who could be easily diagnosed with one set of symptoms.

She said that, if a child had a lot of different problems, treating the child as an autistic would not be effective.

Lead researcher Andrew Zimmerman, of the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Lexington, said that it was not unusual to see a child start out with more severe autism and then become more moderate and even mild as the years went by.

He said that a lot of children's symptoms improved over time, and that adults did not really know why.

In the study, one third of children once diagnosed as autistic as children were no longer diagnosed as autistic at the time of the study.

Having a learning disability was more common in young children. On the other hand, anxiety, speech problems and seizures were more commonly found in teenagers and school-aged children.

Past studies have also shown that children who are originally diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder eventually get diagnosed with something else.

But researchers disagree as to whether or not that change of diagnosis has to do with brain development, or with a doctor's mistake.

Zimmerman said that there was lot of mouldability in the developing brain.

The researchers also found that the number of co-emergent diagnoses tended to vary somewhat predictably with the age of the child, possibly indicating an underlying biological mechanism.

For the recent study, the researchers used data taken from a telephone survey of 92,000 parents.

All of the parents had children aged 17 and younger in 2007 and 2008.

In total, 1,366 parents said their child had a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which includes Asperger syndrome.

In 453 cases, the diagnosis had been changed at some point from ASD to non-ASD.

Very young children who had ASDs were also more likely to have mild seizures and epilepsy.

School-aged children were more likely to have anxiety or a speech problem, and if their diagnosis had changed from ASD to non-ASD, they were more likely to have had a hearing problem.

 

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