Life on the Spectrum

You don’t outgrow autism

Recent articles like this one ( 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 All of these observations are based on outdated stereotypes of what autism is.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.


Comments on: "You don’t outgrow autism" (7)

  1. I was discussing this with my sister not long ago, and then last week a blogging friend brought up the same subject.

    My ister was telling me that she and her daughter would be unable to recieve a diagnosis now because they “outgrew” their autism. My sister couldn’t find an explanation when I asked her why I hadn’t other than “Some people just don’t”.

    I told my fellow blogger about this observation, and she agrees with my theory that my sister and niece have both learned coping mechanisms that I quite obviously haven’t. My symptoms, however, are only noticeable to those who know me extremely well (husband, family and a few close friends); everybody else just finds me likeably eccentric 🙂

  2. Anonymous said:

    You don’t get a lot of help as an adult, especially if others see you have a job. Somehow the word “autism” is too wide an umbrella term especially when it comes by to specializing learning disabilities. I work two jobs and I tell winter time is the hardest for me because my body seems to be constantly vitamin-depleted. Well, for one thing my former classmates constantly say things like “Life was so fun and easy when I was 21. Now that I am 40, I can’t do it like I used to.” I could not relate to that because life was not functional and easy for me when I was 21. The opposite is closer the truth. I did not get my first job until I was 22, and even then had trouble with energy and performance from the start. For little outside help and lack of understanding, I had to be my own guinea pig for many years, over time figuring out which supplements work best and how to best manage my life. At least now when episodes do hit me I could use better terminology, such as explaining that my mind and body are working against my will, instead of thinking I am not trying hard enough. However, there is not going to be any time in life when everything is solved 100%. I am still trying to work on stragedies in trying to improve my memory and performance. That’s why I hate using the term “autism”, which seems to apply more to lack of social interest than bad memory when it is my memory and energy level especially that hinders me in the social realm.

  3. Can you please remove my previous comment. I do not want these things showing up on google.

    • I made it anonymous.

    • Anyways, I have resolved to define myself by who the Bible says I am not what some undereducated psychology student had guessed or how the world umbrella things, since I am defined as a new creation in Christ. It is a change of heart, change of mind, and change of behavior I have received, not just a change of behavior…of course food and supplements should always stay in check. However, I am glad to find healing and freedom. I do not underestimate God’s power.

  4. Make all my comments anonymous

  5. I hear you, loud and clear. I’ve run into this issue while learning to teach high school science. In schools in the US, the ADA provides for special needs students (including ADHD and autism). There are two provisions, the 504 plan and the IEP (Individualized Education Plan). The plans provide ways to accommodate an individual student’s needs, and I’ve found these helpful (my son has ADHD and his 504 made a difference).

    These plans last until the student graduates or turns 21, whichever comes first. Then they shut off, and we’re left on our own. Trying to explain this to a teacher helping me learn, and my evaluator, got me the responses, “Stop making excuses. You have to learn how to do this, and anyone can do it if they try hard enough.” No, dammit! Sorry, folks, you don’t outgrow these things. I did learn a lot of coping strategies that work, sort of, but despite trying many types of “self-help books” and classes, the coping strategies usually only hide or diminish behaviors, they are not eliminated.

    This post is so close to my situation I could have written it myself. Very well done; thanks!

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