There is no medical consensus but a growing number of doctors believe that it is possible for a small number of individuals to achieve recovery from autism. Studies indicate that between 10 percent and 20 percent of autistic children are probably able to recover from the disorder although some problems including depression, anxiety, phobias and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may persist. Applied behavioral analysis, an intensive therapy that focuses on and aims to correct problem behaviors, has been shown to promote recovery effectively. Those children who begin treatment prior to the age of five stand the best chance of recovery from autism.
Children with the greatest potential for recovery often fall into the informal category of high functioning autism. In general, an autistic person is considered to be high functioning if he or she displays typical autistic behaviors such as an inability to read social cues or engage in conversation but can read, write, do chores and demonstrate affection among other indicators. High functioning autistic children who develop the ability to speak may be diagnosed with Asperger syndrome rather than classic autism.
A child’s intelligence quotient or IQ is another possible indicator of his or her chance of recovery from autism. An IQ that is above average may help some autistic children compensate and overcome problem behaviors. Once a child is considered to have recovered, a superior IQ is believed to positively affect the normalization process.
A key component of recovery from autism may be early diagnosis and therapeutic intervention, preferably before the age of five. Applied behavioral analysis has been shown to have a beneficial effect on autistic children and may encourage recovery from the disorder. This intensive suite of therapies can require a significant commitment of time and resources on the part of the autistic child and his or her parents.
Applied behavioral analysis aims to improve motor, social, verbal and reasoning skills that autistic children may not be able to learn on their own or from their environment. A child’s activities and conduct are first observed with the intent of identifying what triggers and reinforces problem behaviors. Correct behaviors are then gradually substituted and encouraged via a system of prompting and rewards. Children often need daily exposure to applied behavioral analysis.
The results of research on the possibility of recovery from autism are supported by anecdotal evidence from parents and formerly autistic individuals. In some cases, children recover successfully enough that physicians wonder if they were initially misdiagnosed. Recovery from autism is not the same as curing the disorder, but many individuals who have overcome their autistic symptoms have become fully functional and productive members of society.