What is significant about this research is not the basic finding, but rather the "discovery" that the "window of opportunity" does NOT slam shut in early childhood. This is a huge and heartening message for parents who are receiving later diagnoses along with the dire warning that early intervention provides the only viable hope for their children. Indeed, as I mentioned in an article written months ago, early intervention is but one way to make a difference in a child's life - and there is no research that suggests that later intervention is LESS helpful.
Here are the details on the research report, According to an article on the Newswise website:
"On average, people are getting better," says Paul T. Shattuck, an assistant professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis who worked on the study as a graduate student and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Waisman Center and is the first author of the paper....Does this new finding make you feel more hopeful about future prospects for your child with autism (or for yourself if you've received an autism diagnosis as an adult)? Or does it just confirm what you already know?
The new paper reports on how behavior in 241 adolescents and adults, initially aged 10 to 52 years, changed over a five-year period. Although symptoms for many in the study remained stable, a significant proportion exhibited improvements in symptoms and maladaptive behaviors....
Like most people, individuals with developmental disabilities such as autism continue to grow and change over time, Shattuck explains: "Their development is not frozen in time and forever the same. That's just not the case."
...Why some in the sample improved is being investigated as part of the ongoing study, according to Shattuck.
"Our study demonstrates that significant changes are occurring," he explains. "But in terms of the underlying biological mechanisms, we don't yet know what's going on."