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Some kids leave the autism spectrum but still struggle

"Understanding the full range of possible positive outcomes in this scenario is important," said lead researcher Dr. Lisa Shulman.

By Brooks Hays
Some kids leave the autism spectrum but still struggle
Some kids escape their autism diagnosis; but not without residual cognitive and behavioral issues that require professional attention. File photo by UPI/Bill Greenblatt | License Photo

SAN DIEGO, April 27 (UPI) -- For most, autism is a lifelong disorder. But not for everyone. A recent study found that a small but significant portion of toddlers (1 in 14) who are diagnosed with the cognitive disorder were no longer meeting the diagnostic criteria by elementary school.

The new research showed, however, that for most of these kids, behavioral and emotional symptoms continued to require special educational support. Saying goodbye to the autism spectrum, in other words, isn't all smooth sailing and green pastures.

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"When an early ASD diagnosis resolves, there are often other learning and emotional/behavioral diagnoses that remain," lead researcher Dr. Lisa Shulman, an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, explained in a press release.

The new research materialized as part of a larger study on autism, including 569 children living in the Bronx who had been diagnosed with ASD as infants. All 569 children were entered in an intervention program aimed at alleviating symptoms of autism, and teaching young children how to cope with and overcome their disorder.

When re-evaluated about four years later, 38 of the children no longer met the requirements for an ASD diagnosis. Despite the waning of autism's social impairment, as well as improved cognitive functioning, 35 of the 38 still had residual learning, emotional, and/or behavioral issues that require attention.

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"Understanding the full range of possible positive outcomes in this scenario is important information for parents, clinicians and the educational system," Shulman concluded.

Shulman is preparing to present her latest findings on Monday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, currently going on in San Diego.

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