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Archive for the ‘ABS Journal Club’ Category

What is Autism Recovery?

If you know anything about me, you know that I am passionate about providing quality services for children with autism as early as possible to ensure that every child has the opportunity to progress as far as possible and to potentially recover from autism. I’ve written about this topic here, here, and here.

If you think I’ve already had a few too many to drink today, please check out this professional video from the University of Connecticut. The researcher in this video is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Her name is Deb Fein and she is really good at diagnosing children. She realized she needed to study this further when a child she had previously diagnosed returned to her several years later and did not meet the criteria for autism.

So she began researching this very topic. While recovery from autism describes what she sees, Dr. Fein has chosen to use the words Optimal Outcome to describe the children who ultimately obtained optimal outcome and no longer met the criteria for autism.

In our journal club meeting on Monday, we read and discussed the following article:

Moulton, E., Barton, M. Robins, D. L., Abrams, D. N., & Fein, D. (2016). Earlycharacteristics of children with ASD who demonstrate optimal progress between age two and four. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46, 2160-2173. You may access a free copy of the article here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4860351/pdf/nihms761908.pdf

We were a little disappointed in this paper in that it didn’t address treatment and optimal outcome but rather predictors of optimal outcome. 190 children participated in the study with 19 of them achieving optimal outcome.

At the beginning of the study, researchers classified all children into 4 groups: PDD-NOS; Asperger’s; ASD; and ASD Low MA (mental age less than 12 months). On average, all children were diagnosed around 26 months of age. Re-assessment occurred around 48 months.

Before we go further, it is important to note that the children in this study were Caucasian and far above the poverty line.¬†Also, the study didn’t control for early intervention so it’s hard to really say other than the obvious:

  1. Children who were originally diagnosed with PDD-NOS were more likely to lose their diagnosis at re-evaluation.
  2. No children with ASD-Low MA met the criteria for optimal progress (OP) at follow up assessment. 
  3. Children in the OP group showed less severe symptoms in the area of social skills, stereotypies, and sensory abnormalities
  4. Children in the OP group showed fewer DSM-V symptoms at initial diagnosis
  5. Children in the OP group showed stronger adaptive abilities
  6. Lesser symptoms of restricted interests and  repetitive behaviors predicted OP.

‚ÄčIt is super important that we not think of this as mis-diagnosis but rather, the earlier the diagnosis, the earlier the intervention, the more quantity of intervention, and thus, better outcomes that result in losing the autism diagnosis.

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