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.