Thursday, April 06, 2006

Five Year Study of Children with ASDs

This article chronicles an interesting study that followed 91 children with ASDs for five years. Here's what was found [I added italics to what I found most compelling]:

"One central finding of the study, said Dr. Coplan, is that children in the normal range of intelligence (an IQ of 70 or above) show significant improvement in their ASD symptoms over time. "We can offer the hopeful message to parents that many children with autistic spectrum disorders will improve as part of the natural course of the condition," he said. This finding reinforced impressions by Dr. Coplan and many previous researchers about clinical outcomes for children with autistic spectrum disorders.
Dr. Coplan cautions that although the model has predictive value for clinical outcomes when looking at average outcomes for groups of children, it will not necessarily predict a course for each individual patient. Rather it would provide a "roadmap" on which to plot a child's progress over time.
The model still must be confirmed in larger studies of populations of children with autistic spectrum disorders, not just in a sample from one clinic, according to Dr. Coplan.
If larger studies validate the model, he adds, it may become a benchmark to help researchers evaluate the effectiveness of particular autistic spectrum disorders treatments. "Many currently popular therapies may be capitalizing on the natural history of ASD, and claiming such improvement on their own behalf," he writes in the paper. If patients improved more than would be anticipated from the model's outline of the natural course of ASD alone, that might provide evidence for a treatment's success.
Additionally, the model might shed light into causes of autistic spectrum disorders, as yet unknown. Children with ASD from different causes may follow different developmental paths," says Dr. Coplan, and studying those patterns may help researchers to better identify causes for the diseases."

The study appears in the July 2005 issue of Pediatrics.

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