Some children once thought to have autism spectrum disorder were later found to have other conditions or were misdiagnosed, new research finds

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that some children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, can outgrow their diagnosis.

This isn’t unqualified good news: Experts caution that those children often continue struggling with other conditions.

The latest evidence was published this month in the Journal of Child Neurology. It demonstrated that among 569 children diagnosed with autism between 2003 and 2013, 38 children—or about 7%—no longer met the diagnostic criteria.

Lisa Shulman is first author of the study and professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System in Bronx, N.Y. She says that the majority of the 38 children had other new learning and language disabilities or health conditions, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety or disruptive behavior disorder. They still needed academic or behavioral support.

“An early diagnosis for autism is a red flag—it may just not be a red flag for autism,” Dr. Shulman says. “In a certain percentage of kids they have other problems. They eventually differentiate themselves.”

She says it’s hard to determine if these children who outgrow their diagnoses do so because of their own natural progression or in response to early intervention. The children who do usually have the mildest cases. Another possible explanation: Some children were misdiagnosed.

Only three of the 38 children had no other conditions or problems.

Children who are longer diagnosed with ASD show improvements with communicating and interacting with other people, which can include more eye contact and an easier time with back-and-forth conversations.

The children, whose mean age was 2.5 years old, were diagnosed and treated at a university-affiliated early intervention program in the Bronx. They were re-evaluated four years later, on average. Most of the children received a mix of speech and occupational therapy and applied behavior analysis, the standard treatment for ASD.

Children who are later diagnosed with disorders like psychosis or anxiety may have had them all along. But such conditions are hard to diagnose before children can speak well, Dr. Shulman notes.

Autism rates in the U.S. have increased steadily over the past two decades. About one in 59 U.S. children are diagnosed with ASD by age 8, according to 2014 data, the most recent available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a 15% increase from 2012 and 150% increase since 2000. (Total numbers for conditions whose diagnoses are somewhat subjective and not based on blood or another type of definitive test can be difficult to get.)

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-autism-diagnosis-that-isnt-always-permanent-11553526845?mod=hp_lead_pos9