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Changes Seen in Autism Symptoms and Cognition From Adolescence to Adulthood

Safeminds 2018 logoHow many times have you been told that your son (or daughters) will outgrow much of their autism, as if by magic? There is some good news and some...  Interesting to note that "adulthood" was age 23. Two of my daughters must be approaching middle age!) No 33, 43, or 53 year old subjects?


August 26, 2020

Population-Based Study Aims to Identify Features to Predict Functioning Level in Later Life

Planning a meaningful future for a child with autism can give even the calmest parents anxiety. Especially when they are tasked with making educational, employment and/or vocational decisions while research gaps regarding autism symptoms experienced in adulthood exist. A recent SafeMinds Shares article reported on a new study that examined changes in autism symptom severities from preschool to early elementary school years. The study found around half (54.4%) of the young participant’s autism severities remained unchanged and about half of the cohort experienced a change. Twenty-eight percent saw a reduction in their autism symptoms while, sadly, 16% had their symptoms worsen.

But what about predicting changes in later developmental years? A study published earlier this year in the Journal of American Academy of Child Adolescence Psychiatry may help provide anxious parents with guidance with this issue. This population-based longitudinal study from Great Britain is the first to investigate autism symptom changes in late childhood through early adult life. Using data from the Special Needs Autism Project (SNAP), the study’s authors examined latent growth curve models at three time points 12, 16, and 23 years. At each of these intervals, IQ and parent reported Social Responsiveness Scale Autism Symptoms were measured in order to plot trajectory changes of development and functioning throughout these years.

The study’s results contained a few surprises. On an extremely positive note, the 126 participants experienced an unexpected and significant IQ increase by a mean of 7.48 points. Since IQ tests are normed for all ages, this considerable rise would not be seen in the general population. This increase suggests that there is continued cognitive development in the adolescent/early adulthood period for individuals with autism that is not experienced in typically developing individuals.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that participants who had a history of early language regression exhibited significantly greater IQ gains during this time period. The authors suggest that individuals who experienced early regression may continue to have a different developmental course into their second decade of life compared to those with autism who did not have a history of regression.

While there was good news for cognitive functioning, there was disappointing news when it came to autism symptoms. Read More Here.



Jonathan Rose; So very true. You meet one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.


Jonathan Rose

While those who attend mainstream schools show a reduction in autism symptoms, that doesn't mean we should push all autistic children into mainstream schools, where the more severely affected may not be able to function. Those who are higher functioning are more likely to be sent to mainstream schools, and it may be that the higher functioning are more likely to improve spontaneously, not necessarily because they receive a mainstream education.


Anita Donnelly: Some times I felt like a really mean bully though. I could not teach him anything at age four, or five, or six, or seven. I kept him back a whole year of school, so he was seven in the first grade. It was not till the end of the first grade school year that he was able to read. It helped a lot in his talking.

But right now, I don't think it is defiance, maybe more fear and dread?

I can give him everything I own, but he has to have some income in order to keep it.
He saved all his money when he worked, and his so proud of his bank account.
But to get any kind of health insurance help from our wonderful government that allowed, no helped give him this brain injury; he has to have an empty bank account.

I am thinking that that money might have to go for some psychological help.
We are so close. So close and yet can't reach that final goal of being financially independent. He may never be.

Anita Donnelly

@benedetta I couldn’t get my son to let me teach him anything from age 8-18 and was impressed you could. I was just marveling at that when I read of your current challenges

Maybe your son is going through a stage of defiance at the “wrong” age?
Autism. The roller coaster life.
Hope for you!


Brains keep on developing through the 20s. Which I read the studies back in the day when it mattered and kept on with it all. My son did make some pretty good leaps in his development. Especially when he was finally put on seizure medicines.

When my son was very little, I thought that school and being around many others would help, I know I have said just chuck it all on here a couple of times. But yeah, being in school for just the social side of it was very much needed.

I started him young at four years old, before they started preschool for anyone. I could not get him to focus at all, so some else was needed.

I found that he really did not learn at school. He maybe around others and it might help the social part of it. I do believe it did, but I taught him in the evenings, the weekends, and the summers to get him caught up. I taught him to read. I am the one , not the schools. I taught him algebra , not school. My husband taught him chemistry, not the school His grandmother taught him history and literature, not the school. His grandfather taught him how to use the tractor, to bushhog, and load the hay; no one else.

That said; he has held several jobs, he does have several technical degrees from college, he does hold an AA degree. But we have as of January hit some major road block.

I am not sure I know what it is? At first it was insanity. It was OCD now that has gone away and I don't know what is the problem now? anxiety? total lack of energy? Lazy?
He won't even bush hog. He won't even gather the eggs --LOL I have four mother hens hatching out babies. We already have 11 baby chicks with dozens more on the way. His sister is beside herself! I think my son is gong to be held responsible for those babies. Well some what responsible. If you mention getting out and looking for a job he gets angry and mad.

I don't know?

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