Monday, February 25, 2013

Article # 323. Falling off the Spectrum: Optimal Outcome for people with ASD

A research published on Jan 2013 has found that it is possible for some people to ‘lose’ their Autism diagnosis. Deborah Fein and her colleagues compared a groups of 34 ‘Optimal Outcome’ individuals (i.e. those who were diagnosed with Autism at childhood but now exhibit no autistic symptoms) between the ages of 8-21, to a typically developing group (i.e. those who has not been diagnosed with Autism and do not exhibit any symptoms) and to a group of people with High Functioning form of Autism (HFA; ‘milder’ form of Autism), on various cognitive, social and communication abilities. The researchers also used the Autism Diagnosis Observation Schedule (ADOS; Lord et al., 2000) to see whether any of the participants meet the diagnostic criteria for Autism.
The results revealed that the Optimal Outcome group had average scores in the areas of Communication, Socialization, Adaptive Behaviors and Facial Recognition. It should be noted that they did not differ significantly to those in the Typically Developing group, whilst those with High Functioning Autism scored lower across all the areas mentioned. It is also important to note that based on interviews with the participants’ parents, participants in the ‘Optimal Outcome’ group had relatively milder symptoms compared to those who were in the HFA group. Although, these reports are questionable since they were based on parents’ memories and recent events may have clouded their responses.
1.       Although this could be a welcome sign for a lot of individuals with Autism and their family, we should all note that this study is relatively small-scale. In addition, as mentioned in the study, those who achieved Optimal Outcome initially had milder symptoms.
2.      The study reported here is only the beginning of a major project. They have only shown that there is a group of people who had a diagnosis of Autism in the past, who now do not qualify for a diagnosis. A lot is still not known…
3.      The research team is conducting a battery of tests  to determine the levels of Cognitive Abilities, Language, Academics and Executive functions of those who achieved Optimal Outcomes in order to accurately determine whether they are of average range.
4.      Peer interactions and friendship/ relationship quality should also be reliably examined to fully understand whether these individuals have ‘lost’ their Autistic symptoms.
1.       When and how did these people lose their  Autism symptoms?
2.      Is it necessary to have an intervention? If so, which intervention should be introduced to increase the chance of having Optimal Outcome?
3.      How many people with Autism can achieve Optimal Outcome?
4.      Do only those who have high I.Q. levels achieve Optimal Outcome?
5.      To what extent have their brain structures and functions normalized?