Recent articles like this one (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21029593) state that children may “grow out” of autism.
I’d like to tell these people that I’m 44 years old, and I have not yet outgrown my autism.
Children (and adults) can lose symptoms. With proper therapy and education, autistic people can learn to behave in ways that are almost indistinguishable from non-autistic people. However, that does not mean they are no longer autistic, because autism is wired into the brain. They simply appear to not be autistic.
I think the difficulty comes in the diagnostic criteria. Right now there is no simple medical test that can prove that someone is autistic. The diagnosis is made by observing behaviour. When an autistic person no longer behaves in what is considered to be an autistic manner, then if you’re going by behaviour alone, that person wouldn’t be considered autistic.
I’m sure that most people who know me wouldn’t have any idea I’m on the autism spectrum if I didn’t tell them. I’ve had people tell me I’m too intelligent to be autistic. I’m too social to be autistic. I have too many friends to be autistic. I have a job, therefore I cannot be autistic. I have a boyfriend, therefore I cannot be autistic. All of these observations are based on outdated stereotypes of what autism is.
I compare my autism to my diabetes. If I test my blood sugar, inject my insulin, watch what I eat and get some exercise, I don’t show any symptoms of diabetes. Does this mean my diabetes has gone away? No, of course not. My pancreas still isn’t producing insulin. I don’t think anyone would ever say that I don’t have diabetes just because I’m not showing symptoms at a particular time. But diagnosis of diabetes is based on actual medical tests, and as I said, there is no one, single, infallible medical test for autism, and there won’t be unless brain imaging is done on enough people diagnosed with autism to show what exactly it is in the brain that causes a person to be autistic.
A person can stop having symptoms of autism, but I don’t think they can “outgrow” those symptoms. A child who received absolutely no therapy for their autism probably would not stop having symptoms just because they reached a certain age.