One of the questions that I’m almost always asked when I talk about autism is: “Is there a cure?” Because it’s important to note that autism is a spectrum disorder and that there are children who are very mildly impacted by autism, as well as those who are moderate to severely impacted, I’m very cautious in my response. I have talked with many parents who have told me their child was “cured” after intensive ABA training. Certainly, I would not dispute their claims; however, I personally believe that there is not a cure for autism, in the conventional sense of the word “cure.”
A recent research study looked at 570 children living in New York between the years 2003-2013. All the children had been diagnosed with ASD around 2 ½ years of age. However, 7% (38 children) showed no signs of autism by the time they were 6 years old. While all of these children were functioning within normal, cognitive range, 68% of the 38 also had learning disabilities. Nearly half had ADHD, and 25% had disabilities such as anxiety, OCD, or selective mutism. Only 3 of the 38 had no other diagnoses.
Yes, some of the characteristics of autism may decrease or even disappear, or a child learns to compensate for certain behaviors. But this does not necessarily mean that the child will not have learning or behavior challenges. As Dr. Shulman, study author, suggests: “Understanding the full range of possible positive outcomes in autism is important information for parents, clinicians, and the educational system.”