This article is one of many that have been in the news lately about a study showing that some children grow out of autism, lose the diagnosis. It's a study in the early stages, as they haven't yet talked about what was done differently, if anything, with those children, or some ways the children might have been different from other autistic kids from the start. But it certainly caught my interest. In some ways, my life is a laboratory for that study. My older son was originally diagnosed as autistic, and now is in no way autistic. And Janey, of course, is severely autistic and I am pretty sure always will be.
You can't make a study on an example of two kids, but it gives me some hard-won insight and ideas to have lived this. The study only accepted diagnoses from experts in autism. Both my kids were diagnosed by fairly well known leaders in the field, so that counts. But there are huge difference between them, and were from the start.
The big, big, big difference is cognitive ability. Janey is intellectually disabled. There is a question in my mind whether she always was, and she did lose skills at age 3, but in some ways, she was always delayed. She didn't walk until she was 2. Her speech, although she had a lot of it before 3, didn't start as early as many kids, and wasn't as clear to others as some kids. She even was/is delayed in physical ways---she didn't get teeth until after her first birthday. William was never cognitively delayed. He spoke at an incredibly early age, and he was obviously quite a bright kid from the start. I would guess that when the study is further processed, the big division will be between kids with retardation and kids without it.
Another distinction, one I don't much like to think about, is that William showed signs of autism early, and Janey didn't. It was not that William had intensive ABA (they didn't do that much back then), but we were aware he was potentially autistic much earlier than Janey. We may have used that to react differently to him. I don't think so, but it's possible. Janey blindsided us at age 3. She has early intervention, but it was only for her walking delays. It's kind of ironic that her not showing her autistic traits earlier might have lead to a huge difference in outcome, and I don't like to think that, and don't really believe it, but it's possible, I guess.
The truth of the matter here is that I don't think William was ever really autistic, despite being diagnosed by an expert. I think he had a collection of traits that made him appear autistic. Part of that is just personality. It's the same personality that now leads him to study for 6 or 8 hours a night and get near perfect grades, the same personality that makes him a guitar whiz. He's a hard worker, and he gets very involved in what he loves doing. That showed up early. He loved maps, trains, Thomas the Tank Engine, sinks, stoves---he would get VERY into those things! And as you grow up, having the ability to get very into things isn't bad. It is what makes experts, professors. It's probably what has resulted in most all great inventions and steps forward in history. I think autism is something that shouldn't in some ways be diagnosed until around age 7. Many things can mimic autism early on, and I am in no way saying they shouldn't get a full court treatment. They should. But do they have to be called autism that early? By the time a child is 7 or 8, it will be obvious who is autistic and who isn't. Janey is autistic. There is zero doubt there. William isn't. There is zero doubt there too.
The other message I want to put out there is that I didn't do anything magical to make William not autistic. I didn't put him on any kind of special diet, he didn't get any ABA at all, I didn't do floor time or anything like that. I gave him a lot of attention, he had an IEP at school until 5th grade, he had some great teachers and therapists, but he also just lived his life. He was the one that changed. I didn't make him change. That sends me a message about Janey. I am doing the best I can for her, but I don't think there is some magical key that will unlock her.
I look forward very much to following this study as more information comes out.