Age 6 may represent key turning point in autism

Published by: Spectrum
Written by: Charles Q. Choi

Autism trait severity decreases from age 3 to 6 in most autistic children, but that progress then stalls for nearly three-quarters of them, according to a new long-term study.

The findings suggest that age 6 — when elementary school usually begins — is a key turning point for autistic children, when families, clinics, schools and communities can provide extra support.

“We can think about making sure these turning points turn out positively instead of negatively for kids,” says lead investigator Stelios Georgiades, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.

The results jibe with a 2020 study showing that autism traits are not stable in young children with autism. But they run counter to the long-standing idea that these traits don’t typically ease with time.

“Most children with autism do show some improvement, in contrast with a lot of the literature,” says David Amaral, professor of medical psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, who led the 2020 study but was not involved in the new work. “Change in the severity of symptoms over time is more likely than ever thought before.” Click here to read the rest of the story.

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