Autism definition could change following 'outgrowing' study

Parents and activists are up in arms over medical professionals' suggestion for a stricter definition of autism spectrum disorder after a new study revealed it may be over-diagnosed.

Researchers found one-third of children in the study who were originally diagnosed with autism no longer had the disorder. According to The Times of India, the results were collected by a phone survey of more than 92,000 parents of children aged 17 and younger in the U.S. in 2007 and 2008.

The main point of disagreement is whether or not the children were misdiagnosed or if the treatment they received had helped them improve to the point where they were no longer affected. Many experts believe people with autism need to sustain a treatment to maintain that level of progress--not outgrow it.

"When you're autistic, you're autistic. It's a very stable condition," Professor John Matson told The Times of India.

According to The New York Times, the American Psychiatric Association is currently reviewing a new definition of autism spectrum disorder that could impact the diagnosis rate, state-funded programs and behavioral services available for children.

However, the study's lead researcher believes early detection and treatment is the key to the lasting improvement seen in the study.

"It's not unusual to see a child start out with more severe autism and then become more moderate and even mild as the years go by. A lot of the kids are improving, and we don't really know why, except we know there's a lot of moldability of the developing brain," Dr. Andrew Zimmerman told The Times of India.

Currently, about one in 110 children are diagnosed with a form of autism.

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