Autism study finds 10% of child sufferers 'bloom' and overcome condition


Suxie, 6, who suffers from autism hits himself immediately after being untied to a chair as John Davies (L) looks on at the Bright Connection centre in Sanya, on October 26, 2009 in China's southernmost island province of Hainan. The centre was set up in 2004 by US couple John and Maggie Davies from Colorado who moved to the sub-tropical island in the mid-1990's as consultants for its booming hotel industry but were moved by what they saw as the huge needs of local disabled children, eventually adopting in 1997 an abandoned local baby girl, severely disabled by cerebral palsy and autism, and now care for and provide therapy for up to 25 children with cerebral palsy, autism, or both.



US researchers today said about 10 percent of autistic children are likely to "bloom," reported Reuters, meaning their condition will improve drastically as they age -- a welcome finding on Autism Awareness Day

The findings come amid concerns of a hidden "autism epidemic" in the United States, where health officials on Thursday said cases had risen by 78% percent in the last decade, with one in 88 children diagnosed today, according to AFP

More from GlobalPost: US autism rates jump 78 percent in past decade

Children diagnosed with autism, a condition tied to abnormal brain development, often have acute communication problems, struggle to assimilate socially, and frequently have behavior issues. 

The new findings, published today in the journal "Pediatrics," underscored the importance of early intervention, intensive therapy and home environment for recovery, according to Reuters, with the children showing highest rates of improvement coming from wealthy homes more likely to access high-quality treatment. 

Rahil Briggs, assistant professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told TIME magazine the "critical finding" in the new study is "those children that this study refers to as ‘bloomers’ — the children who seemed very low-functioning at the beginning and then did extremely well — they [tend not to] have any intellectual disabilities."

Briggs, who was not involved in the Columbia University-led California study, was quick to admit that the home environment for these children, however, is a "very key" factor.

Researchers worked with nearly 7,000 autistic children aged 2 to 14 in California, tracking their development from 1992-2001. They found that the majority of children got incrementally better over time, but about 10 percent showed a remarkable turnaround.

This "blooming" percentile tended to come from a higher socio-economic background, researchers found, and did not have intellectual disabilities, while minority children of less-educated mothers rarely showed rapid improvement, said Reuters.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently advises that babies as young as 18 months be screened for autism, according to TIME, a condition that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes now affects some one million U.S. children and teens.