Autism is a lifelong condition, and it is generally accepted that it is impossible to completely recover from it. However, recent studies have suggested that a small number of children may outgrow their autism diagnosis. Researchers are beginning to explore how common this may be and why some children may be able to overcome their symptoms. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) states that autistic symptoms begin early and continue throughout life, although adults may mask their symptoms in some situations.
However, if a person with a diagnosis of autism seems to completely overcome their initial symptoms, they were not diagnosed correctly. Ari Ne'eman, president and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, argues that missing a diagnosis of autism deprives people of the opportunity to be part of the autism community, and that adults in this situation often feel that they are somehow different, but cannot understand the feeling. Geraldine Dawson, scientific director of Autism Speaks, said that a recent study provides concrete support for what many on the frontlines of autism have been witnessing. This study found that approximately 9% of children diagnosed with early autism did not meet the criteria for diagnosing autism in early adulthood.
In addition, one analysis suggested that some young people in the optimal outcome group are a little more socially awkward than their peers, but they are perceived as more likable than those who never had autism or who still have autism but work well. However, estimates of children who seem to lose the social and communication deficiencies and repetitive behaviors that define autism vary widely, from about 3 to 25 percent. In one study, all eight children who no longer met the criteria for autism had received treatment by age 3, compared to only half of the children who continued to have symptoms. Psychologists emphasize that missing all symptoms of autism is rare, and even if symptoms disappear, these children can retain underlying brain differences that can present ongoing challenges.
It is important to note that there is no known cure for autism and it is still considered a lifelong condition.