Autism symptoms can change in severity during early childhood

The question of whether or not autism symptoms change with age has been a persistent and common one. While it is believed that the severity of the symptoms remains stable throughout a person’s life, recently there has been increasing evidence available that suggests that some individuals encounter a substantial change in their symptoms.

A recent study conducted by Einat Waizbard‑Bartov et al. published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, set out to study behavioral data related to autism symptom severity, cognitive function and adaptive behavior. The study involved 125 participants (89 boys and 36 girls) who received a substantial community-based autism intervention throughout their childhood.

The researchers used the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule‑2 (ADOS‑2), a very popular and reliable instrument used for ASD diagnosis. In this longitudinal study, the changes in the severity were calculated at the ages of 6 and 3.

One of the most important findings of this study was that children’s symptom severity can change with age. The researchers discovered that nearly 30% of young children have less severe autism symptoms at age 6 than they did at age 3 and surprisingly, in some cases, children lost their autism diagnoses entirely.

Another key finding was that girls with autism decrease in severity more than boys and increase in severity less than boys during early childhood. A significant relationship between IQ and change in symptom severity was also evident. Children with higher IQs were more likely to show reduction in ASD symptoms.

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