Some children may grow out of autism, despite it generally being considered a life-long condition.
According to new research, children with milder social problems caused by their autism have a greater chance of growing up to function as well in tests as those never diagnosed with the condition.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut in the US studied 34 children who were diagnosed with autism as young children but who went on to function as well as 34 other children in the same classes at school.
Tests showed that autistic children with milder social interaction problems seemed to have a better chance of growing out of the condition, however severe their other behavioural symptoms were.
However, researchers were keen to stress that they were no closer to predicting the outcome of autism diagnoses and added that more research was needed.
Dr Thomas Insel, director of the US National Institute of Mental Health said: “Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes.
“For an individual child, the outcome may be knowable only with time and after some years of intervention. Subsequent reports from this study should tell us more about the nature of autism and the role of therapy and other factors in the long term outcome for these children.”
[Related: Older fathers risk autistic children]
Study leader Deborah Fein added: “All children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) are capable of making progress with intensive therapy, but with our current state of knowledge most do not achieve the kind of optimal outcome that we are studying,” said Dr Fein.
“Our hope is that further research will help us better understand the mechanisms of change so that each child can have the best possible life.”