Children with autism “more likely to succeed” than previously thought, study reveals

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are now more likely to succeed than ever before, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by The Hospital for Sick Children, is among the first to highlight the impact of new treatments on children living with the condition.

The investigation – described as one of the biggest longitudinal research studies of its kind – uses a new strengths-based approach to outcome assessments in children with an ASD diagnosis, rather than the traditional approach used only to diagnose severity of symptoms.

Approximately 270 children aged 2-to-10 years-old were involved in the research.

Each assessment measured the child’s proficiency and growth in five key developmental areas: communication, socialization, activities of daily living, and emotional health.

It was found that eight in 10 (80 per cent) children showed growth or proficiency in at least one of the key developmental areas, while almost a quarter (23 per cent) were doing well in four or more of the domains by mid-childhood.

The results suggest that “positive outcomes” for children with ASD are “more common than previously thought”.

Commenting on the study, co-author Dr Peter Szatmari said: “It was encouraging to find that most ASD children were doing well by 10 years old by some measure.

“By using different criteria to track their development apart from those used to diagnose autism — such as ASD symptoms and cognitive ability — we were able to reframe more holistically how we conceptualized progress in the autism field.”

He added: “Specifying an outcome implies that there’s an end point, whereas doing well relates to an individual’s circumstances at a particular point in their life’s journey with autism — especially important since these kids are just at the start of a journey.”

According to the latest statistics, autism affects around one in every 100 people, meaning there are around 700,000 individuals on the autism spectrum in the UK.

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