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Parents Claim a Cure for Third of Autism Cases

By jeannesager |

autism_ribbonMuch ado has been made of the new study saying the numbers of autistic kids in America are much higher than the already high numbers advocates have been using for years. But hidden inside the study comes an even more shocking figure.

More than a third of the parents included in the study in Pediatrics reported their kids were no longer autistic. So were 38 percent of the kids actually cured?

Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Autism is not a cut and dried diagnosis – it’s a spectrum disorder, which means kids can range from verbal to non, have additional disabilites or not, can be high functioning or have extreme limitations.

An improvement from extreme limitations or from not speaking to carrying on conversations can be seen by parents as a “cure,” when in fact it’s a movement to a different end of the spectrum. It speaks to the success of treatment – kids may get better with intervention.

Then there are kids who truly do get better – almost as if they age out. Then there are those who were misdiagnosed to begin with. It’s another reason autism is stumping researchers, the head of Autism Speaks, one of the nation’s leading advocacy non-profits for autism research and education, told Newsweek.

Jenny McCarthy has gotten plenty of flack for making the same claims (and to be fair – much of it is deserved, as she parades around like a medical expert when she’s NOT). But this study may well be a feather in her cap.

Does this give you hope or make autism that much more confounding?

Image: Autism Speaks

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About jeannesager



Jeanne Sager is a freelance writer and photographer living in upstate New York with her husband and daughter, Jillian. She maintains a blog of her award-winning columns at

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0 thoughts on “Parents Claim a Cure for Third of Autism Cases

  1. Leila says:

    I have an autistic son and agree with your post 100%. I wouldn’t say cure, but rather moving towards the other end of the spectrum and improving some symptoms.

  2. Citizen Mom says:

    Yes, with intense Applied Behavior Analysis, speech, and occupational therapies our son (age 4) is moving leaps and bounds to other end of the spectrum.
    I’ve said this before – on every post on Babble about autism – and I will continue to say it: there is not enough attention placed on behavioral therapies. I’ve met parents with ASD children who’ve never heard of ABA or if they have think it’s a means to turn their children into robots.

  3. Eric says:

    I think the study of this condition fascinating. 30 years ago, lots of the cases in ‘spectrum’ probably wouldn’t have been diagnosed as anything. That kid you grew up with that was ‘a little different’ in elementary school but turned out alright may truly have been diagnosable with what we know now. How many cases could be ‘self correcting’ or at least returning to a very high level of functioning?

  4. Em says:

    My son was recently diagnosed on the very high-functioning end of the Autism spectrum. The developmental pediatrician (as well as his geneticist) did indicate that, with the right therapies now, he may “weasel out” of this diagnosis over time.

    As you article states, treatment can move kids closer to the high functioning end of the spectrum, which means that those kids who are there to begin with will basically be “cured” with treatment.

  5. Black Sheep says:

    I believe a lot of this is misdiagnosis. Late talking kids with sensory and other issues are being diagnosed on the spectrum when they are not. In some cases, this is in order to get services that would otherwise be denied. None other than Stanley Greenspan has spoken about this.

  6. Kikiriki says:

    Years ago, I worked as a behavioral therapist using the Lovaas method, and ITA with Citizen Mom on this – ABA works for a lot of kids, especially if they get early intervention. The earlier the better.

  7. Mom of 2 boys says:

    My brother-in-law tells a story about when he was little, he would take a toy car and run it back and forth on the couch for hours at a time. His mom would even leave him home alone for short periods of time as an eighteen-month old to pick up his brother and sister from school because she knew he would be in the same spot running that car back and forth. If my son did that, I would def. be worried about him and think he was on the spectrum (don’t even mention the fact that she left him alone at that age). But back then, it was just his personality. My brother-in-law graduated from a great college and is gainfully employed. That story makes me think that we might be overdiagnosing kids today with autism when they have quirky traits like that. And then they are “cured” when they get older.

  8. Rainy Day Special says:

    I completely agree that there are kids who are misdiagnosed (especially at an early age – kids develop so differently from each other, some of these things are really hard to call on a 3 or 4 year old). I also agree that many kids in the Autism spectrum can move up the spectrum, especially with therapy.

    Our 2nd son was diagnosed PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified) which is in the same family as Autism and Aspergers without either of those actually being diagnosed. His special education teacher, however, firmly believes he is Autistic. Personally, I don’t care as long as we continue to get him the extra help and therapy he is currently getting, because in the past 1 1/2 years we have seen amazing progress!

    Our first born has no delays, but does exhibit some of the Autistic symptoms we’ve read about (funnily enough, not the same ones that his brother has) and so I do believe that some of these behaviors and “quirkiness” is genetic and inherited. I also believe that so many of these behavioral issues are inter-related – Autism, OCD, Bi-polar, anxiety, ADHD… and with all of these seeming to be diagnosed in higher numbers, I have to wonder how much is genetic, how much is environmental, and how much is mis-diagnosis or over-diagnosis? A certain behavior becomes linked to a disorder and all of a sudden everyone who exhibits that behavior has the disorder!

    I just encourage any parent out there – if you suspect any sort of developmental delay, get your child therapy as soon as possible. It really does help, even if only to show you better ways to interact with your child to encourage their development.

  9. Sara says:

    @ Mom Of Two Boys, My daughter did (sometimes on non gluten free days still does) the running back n’ forth car thing… My Nuro therapist explained to me that this behavior stimulates the eye, which in turn stimulates the production of a happy hormone in the brain. And YES… I need to stop My DD from doing it as soon as I see it, and play with her, cause she needs to be high on serotonin instead. It’s a totally sensory stimming thing. She’d do it for 3-4 hours if I let her.

    But my Nuro theripist very much believes, some children who are labeled Autistic are rather a mix of sensory issues and food sensitivities. I believe her, because for my Non-nuro typical child… Gluten and Dairy makes her 3 sheets to the wind. So personally I’d rather do the Spectrum Balance Protocol diet, add in a bunch of therapy so now she’s just another quirky kid. :-)

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