As a parent, you’re probably worried about the communicative, social, academic, and functional impact that autism has on your child. Many parents are tempted to try different types of treatments that may “cure” their child’s autism.
The problem is that there are plenty of unproven approaches out there that falsely claim to cure autism.
In this article we will discuss if a child can recover from autism and take a look at the latest research being done to try to end autism for good.
What is autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that limits the patient’s ability to communicate with others, socialize, utilize their executive functions, and handle day-to-day tasks.
Most people are diagnosed with ASD when they’re children. The best way to handle this condition is to give your child the treatment that they require at an early age.
Can autism ever go away?
The latest research shows that autism’s symptoms could decrease over time.
However, there is no cure for autism.
There are many strategies to manage its symptoms so that an autistic child can lead a healthy, functional, and productive life.
Some of these treatment methods revolve around therapy, while others concentrate on tackling medical issues that typically develop alongside autism.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy
This is arguably the most common therapeutic treatment for autism. A trained and licensed ABA therapist will work with your autistic son or daughter on a regular basis. They address your child’s behavioral problems and teach them how to improve their social skills.
ABA therapy is effective because it uses rewards and incentives that motivate your child to achieve the desired results.
The length and frequency of the sessions depends on your kid’s unique needs. If your son or daughter has severe symptoms, the therapist will start by working with them for up to 40 hours per week.
As the child’s undesirable behaviors start to go away and they get a better grasp on managing their symptoms, the ABA practitioner will gradually reduce the session hours.
Just as importantly, an ABA therapist could come to your home or your child’s school. You can also take your son or daughter to the therapist’s office. Usually, at-home ABA therapy is the preferred option for children who can’t cope with new environments and can learn at their best from the comfort of their house.
Certain educational programs are designed in a thoroughly structured and organized way that suits the needs of autistic children. This therapeutic approach focuses on social skills, communication capabilities, and behavioral issues.
With educational therapy, your autistic son or daughter would work with a group of specialists and therapists.
Children who enroll in educational therapy while they’re in preschool or at a younger age tend to achieve the best results.
Managing and treating an autistic kid doesn’t end when they leave school or a therapy session. Instead, it requires a proven and consistent approach at home, too.
Family therapy programs will teach you, as a parent, how to regulate your autistic child’s symptoms. This includes enhancing the boy or girl’s social skills, improving their behavior, and showing them how they can independently complete day-to-day tasks.
You want to consider having other household members, such as the autistic child’s siblings, participate in these family therapy sessions.
Medical and Mental Health Treatments
Unfortunately, many autistic children develop health and psychological issues alongside their ASD diagnosis. You should keep an eye out for any potential signs so that you can provide your son or daughter with the necessary treatments as early as possible.
Here are some of the main comorbidities that autistic children commonly have:
- Gastrointestinal Problems: Kids with ASD may deal with constipation, diarrhea, bacterial and enzyme complications that impact their metabolism and digestion, food allergies, and stomach or esophagus reflexes.
- Neurological Conditions: Examples include epilepsy, neuroinflammation in the brain, neuronal injuries that limit the brain’s ability to communicate with other body parts and muscles, and neurotoxicity.
- Psychological and Mental Health Disorders: Autistic children (and, for that matter, adults) are likely to develop anxiety and depression.
- Respiratory issues.
- Sleep disorders.
Identifying and treating these conditions at an early stage is crucial. After all, the sooner you manage and address them, the easier it will be for your autistic child to focus on living the healthiest and most productive life possible.
Does autism worsen with age?
ASD symptoms may worsen, get better, or stay stable as your son or daughter grow up. Having said that, there isn’t anything that you, as a parent, can do to influence this.
In other words, your child’s health habits, diet, and routine do not make their autism better or worse.
Firstly, there are two type of ASD diagnoses when it comes to age:
- Early Onset Autism: Children with early onset autism show symptoms shortly after they’re born.
- Regressive Autism: With regressive autism, the child grows up with neurotypical characteristics. The signs of ASD start to appear between their first and third birthdays.
With this in mind, you want to have your child regularly get checked by a doctor up to when they turn 3 years old. Most of the time, their doctor will screen them for autism when they’re between 18 and 24-months old. If they spot any concerning symptoms, they recommend additional evaluations.
Yet many kids may not develop ASD signs until they reach 6 years of age. On the other hand, some children who get diagnosed with autism when they’re young report reduced or no symptoms by their 6th birthday.
As a recent study illustrated, autism severity can change substantially during early childhood. After examining the symptoms of kids with ASD between their 3rd and 6th birthdays, the study found that:
- 55% of the autistic children remained in a stable condition.
- 30% had little-to-no ASD symptoms by the time they became 6 years old (in comparison to when they were 3 years of age).
- Only 17% had new or worse symptoms on or before their 6th year.
In short, autism might get worse with age, but that is the least likely scenario. While you can’t influence the course of your child’s symptoms, you should have them undergo regular screenings up until they turn 6 years old to identify and immediately treat potential problems.
Is mild autism reversible?
People with milder forms of autism struggle as adults just as much as those with level 2 and level 3 ASD. However, managing the symptoms of kids with mild or high-functioning autism is easier.
Some long-term studies track how autism changes with age. They show that early intervention and the development of certain capabilities during childhood can minimize the patient’s autistic symptoms when they become a teenager and well into their adulthood.
The following aspects could impact your son or daughter’s ASD severity as they grow up:
- Communication and Verbal Skills: When you work on your child’s ability to communicate with and talk to others, their autism is less likely to interfere in day-to-day activities in their teenage years and beyond.
- Executive Functioning Capabilities: Examples of executive function capabilities include organization, self-control, and adapting to change. Enhancing your son or daughter’s executive functioning capabilities will make it easier for them to live with mild autism as they grow up.
- Parental Engagement: In short, the parents of autistic children who actively get involved in their kids’ lives (especially when it comes to ASD treatment and symptom management) increase the odds that their children will lead functional adult lives.
These factors can influence the course of an autistic child’s life, but whether or not they’re always effective is still being looked into. On a more positive note, researchers are studying a few upcoming medicines that could efficiently treat ASD.
The Latest Treatments Being Researched to Help Autistic Children
Researchers from around the world are examining the following new and cutting-edge treatments that will possibly allow autistic children to recover from ASD.
Biopharmaceutical company PaxMedia is currently conducting phase 2 trials for PAX 101, a drug that is designed to eliminate or diminish ASD symptoms. Autistic children between the ages of 4 and 17 years old with different autism severity levels participated in the study.
So far, PAX 101 gave good results, and the company plans to conduct more clinical trials in 2022. The drug, which contains suramin, is given to patients once per month through an IV injection.
Clinical trials in the United Kingdom by STAR-AIMS are looking at whether a medication, known as Arbaclofen, could improve the social and communication skills of autistic kids.
The trial participants are children with ASD that are 5 to 17 years old.
Arbaclofen contains gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that balances the activity of the brain’s neurons in a manner that enables autistic individuals to communicate and socialize in the same way that their neurotypical counterparts do.
Some studies have shown that genetic mutations among autistic individuals have an impact on different parts of the brain, especially the cerebellum.
To clarify, the cerebellum controls motor, social, and cognitive functions, all which are areas that children with ASD struggle with.
The research opens up hope-filled possibilities for new autism therapies that address and remedy these genetic mutations.
As a matter of fact, all of the three treatments that we outlined above should give autistic kids and their families a sense of optimism. At the moment, there aren’t any cures for autism, and the best way to live with the condition is for children (with the assistance of their parents and therapists) to learn to manage their symptoms.
ASD’s severity may take a turn for the better or worse as your son or daughter ages. There are certain measures that you can take to improve your child’s condition, such as helping them with their communication skills, enhancing their executive functions, and engaging with their treatments (as a parent) from an early age.
While these new methods have not been proven as of yet, they should make you feel optimistic about the future, even more so when you consider the new medications and genetic approaches that may have a game-changing effect on how autism is treated and, possibly, cured.