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Can Autism Be Cured?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is known as a lifelong condition, which leaves many affected by the disorder wondering about the possibility of a cure—if not now, then in the future. Here’s what you need to about the path to an autism cure.

Can autism be cured? The simplest answer is no—or at least not yet. While there have been tremendous advances in our knowledge about autism in recent years, most professionals agree that there’s no cure for ASD. What’s more, some scientists believe that there will never be a single cure for autism, because there isn’t a single cause for autism. Instead, autism is now understood to be the result of a group of underlying causes, making the prospect of a single cure a moot point.

Are there any treatments currently available that come close to an autism cure? While curing autism is not possible at present, there are several ways to treat and manage the condition, some of which can be effective tools for alleviating the symptoms of ASD.

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) has been shown to significantly improve children’s cognitive and language skills, and adaptive behaviors, for example.

Are researchers close to a true autism cure? There is some promising research into finding a real autism cure. In 2017, for example, stem cell transfusion therapy was studied in a small group of ASD patients, with promising results. Before that, a 2016 lab experiment on mice suggested that blocking production of a particular protein could suppress autism symptoms.

Can autism cure itself naturally? While there’s no cure for autism, there is evidence that, in some cases at least, people will ASD will improve naturally over time. Research shows that about 10 percent of ASD patients ultimately show dramatic improvement by their mid-teens.

There’s also a growing body of research to suggest that some children with autism effectively grow out of the disorder. In a 2015 study of 569 children living in the Bronx, New York, researchers found that roughly seven percent of children diagnosed with autism saw their symptoms improve with age to such an extent that they no longer qualified for an ASD diagnosis.

It’s important to note, however, that while there is research to suggest that autism remission is a real phenomenon, a significant portion of cases that appear to be remission are likely children who were mistakenly diagnosed with ASD. In one study, researchers looked at 1,420 children who had been diagnosed with autism and found that around 13 percent of them “lost” their diagnosis—meaning they were later determined not to have ASD. This sounds incredible, but 74 percent of the children who “lost” their autism diagnosis did so when it became apparent that the symptoms that had been attributed to ASD were actually the result of a different condition, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning or intellectual disabilities, anxiety and depression, and mood disorders.

Whatever the case, of course, improvement among autism patients is well-documented and, with appropriate treatment and support, a very real possibility for many people with ASD.

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