Does Autism Get Worse With Age?
As a parent of a child with autism, you understand the unique challenges that come with raising a child with a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. You may have seen your child struggles with making friends, communicating their needs and wants, and adapting to new situations. As your child grows and develops, you may be concerned about how their symptoms will progress over time. You may wonder if your child’s symptoms will worsen as they age, or if there is anything you can do to support their development and help them reach their full potential.
Research into the progression of autism is ongoing, but the evidence suggests that autism does not necessarily get worse with age. A study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that while some children with autism may experience an increase in symptom severity over time, others may see a decrease or no change at all. The study also found that intellectual disability and the presence of certain medical conditions may be predictors of increased symptom severity over time.
Another study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, found that there is a great deal of variability in the course of autism over time. While some children may experience significant improvement in symptoms, others may experience a plateau or even a decline in functioning. The study also found that early intervention, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, can improve outcomes for children with autism.
While autism itself does not necessarily get worse with age, there are some factors that may contribute to a decline in functioning or an increase in autism symptom severity over time.
Some of these factors include:
- Co-occurring medical conditions: Children with autism may be more likely to develop certain co-occurring conditions, such as epilepsy, anxiety, ADHD, and sleep disturbances. These conditions can impact a child’s functioning and may contribute to an increase in symptom severity over time.
- Puberty and adolescence: Puberty and adolescence can be a challenging time for all children, but for those with autism, the transition to adolescence may be particularly difficult. Hormonal changes and social pressures can exacerbate existing symptoms and may contribute to a decline in functioning.
- Changes in routine: Children with autism may rely on routine and predictability to feel comfortable and secure. Changes in routine, such as moving to a new home or school, may be stressful and may contribute to an increase in symptom severity.
While the question of whether autism gets worse with age may be concerning for parents, there are many things that parents can do to support their child’s development and improve outcomes. Early intervention is crucial in improving outcomes for children with autism, and applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is one evidence-based intervention that has been shown to be effective in improving communication, social skills, and behavior. In addition to ABA therapy, parents can work with their child’s healthcare provider to identify other interventions and services that may be beneficial for their child.
As a parent of a child with autism, you can take action to support your child’s development and improve outcomes by seeking out early intervention services like ABA therapy, and working with your child’s primary care doctor to identify other interventions and services that may be beneficial. At Empower Behavioral Health, we offer quality ABA therapy and autism services for children, adolescents, and adults. Contact us to learn more about how we can improve your child’s autism symptoms or get started today.