It’s about the words: “Outgrow autism”

January 23, 2013


By Lisa Ackerman

grow out of it

After reading dozens of national headlines, instead of being hopeful I am offended (1.)  I will explain why:

Individuals with autism typically need many hours if not hundreds or thousands of hours of therapy - many different kinds based on unique needs. An enormous amount of time and energy is also spent by key support staff, immediate and extended families to help. In addition, many individuals with autism are sick (2.) They have medical issues that require comprehensive medical intervention (functional medicine) and for some, lots of it, based on the individual’s needs. All the hard work these individuals have to endure and for some with remarkable results does not mean they just “grew out” of autism.

The article’s title and the interpretation circulated by the media revealing an important study is misleading.  I believe the focus of the study needs to be on the word: RECOVERY. Please read the actual study for more details (3) and then decide.

One could guess that the University of Connecticut wished mainstream media had a different angle on a significant development: recovery for children with autism is possible. The estimates in the study reflect a 10-20% chance. This is better than the loss of hope being offered to parents at the time of diagnosis. Many parents, who come to TACA for help, often say that a finding of autism is often delivered like a harsh death sentence and it shouldn't be.

Based on the circulation of this article, neighbors and friends outside of autism have asked me "can Jeff grow out of autism?" and "does that mean he and/or other kids don't need therapies?" Or my all time favorite "Did they get misdiagnosed? Did they have autism?" The study’s media interpretation has them confused and I am again, frustrated. The media should be sharing this message instead: Work hard. Fight hard. Keep trying new therapies. Do not wait. Have hope.

“Growing out” of autism is an urban myth. Recovery from autism is possible as we have witnessed many times at TACA. This is the reason why we here to help as many families as we can, also knowing that any progress achievable by their children is crucial.

For all those kids (or adults) and their loving families: You deserve a parade, a large award and a front page story on this monumental achievement of recovery. That's a huge accomplishment, and no, you didn’t just “grow out of it”.


1) In the news

2) Kids with autism are sick.

3) The University of Connecticut study