The Kids Who Beat Autism – NYT Article

There’s a fascinating article in the NYT about children who are diagnosed with autism, but outgrow it.

The author, Ruth Padawer, discusses two studies of this phenomenon:

Intervention for optimal outcomes in children and adolescents in a history with autism,


Predicting young adult outcomes among more and less cognitively able individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

The experts do not know yet what caused the autism or how to cure it. They have just shown that about 10% of kids can overcome it.

Factors that increase the chance of outgrowing autism include: earlier parental concern, earlier referral to therapists, and earlier and more intense intervention. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) may increase the chances of a good outcome. (ABA is not appropriate therapy for gender dysphoria; there is a famous case of it being used with a gender non-conforming boy with disastrous results.)

In addition, children who start with better scores on IQ tests are more likely to do well. Presumably their autism is not as severe to start with.

The children who overcome autism may still have some symptoms, including “social awkwardness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, repetitive movement, mild perseverative interests and subtle difficulties in explaining cause and effect.” One of the people interviewed in the article also mentions sensory issues such as feeling that omelets are slimy or disliking the texture of paper.

However, for the group of children whose autism faded, we can’t be sure if their brains changed due to treatment, if their brains changed on their own, or if their brains were never the same as the brains of other children with autism,

Another study found that therapy could change the brain activity of children with autism.

Early Behavioral Intervention is Associated With Normalized Brain Activity in Children with Autism.

According to the New York Times, “Prior studies determined that autistic children show more brain engagement when they look at color photos of toys than at color photos of women’s faces — even if the photo is of the child’s mother. Typically developing children show the reverse, and the parts of their brain responsible for language and social interaction are more developed than those of autistic children.”

Toddlers who received “25 hours a week of a behavioral therapy designed to increase social engagement” had brain patterns like typically developing children after two years; toddler who received the regular community intervention did not.

This article is not directly related to gender dysphoria, but it is an interesting look at a condition that may be somehow linked to gender dysphoria.

Original Article:

The Kids Who Beat Autism by  Ruth Padawer in The New York Times.