Autism has been considered to be a life-long condition, but a feature on TIME suggests that a rare few may actually outgrow most of its symptoms.

Researcher Deborah Fein of the University of Connecticut and her colleagues worked with 34 volunteers from ages 8 to 21 who have been previously diagnosed with symptoms of autism “but no longer met criteria for the condition.” These individuals were classified as “optimal outcome” (OO) participants and were compared to 44 people of the same demographics, but with existing symptoms of autism or Asperger’s symptoms. The OO participants were also compared to a control group of 34 people.

Volunteers were tested, interviewed, and videotaped to see if they indeed no longer displayed symptoms of autism. A panel of experts observed and reviewed the available data, and studied how they were able to attend regular schooling and work with a social group. These individuals showed an IQ of over 77 points, which did not “apply to autistic children who also have intellectual disability.” However, those in the OO group may still experience other psychological conditions such attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression.

The researchers clarify that “optimal outcome” doesn’t necessarily mean being totally relieved of the condition, as it's an improvement of one’s quality of life.

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“Most of us in the field certainly agree that the most important outcome is happiness, functionality, and high quality of life,” says Sally Ozonoff, professor of psychiatry at the University of California Davis Medical Center. “We do not mean to imply that OO (or recovery) is the only outcome worth working toward. We do not want to suggest that any other outcome is tragic and hopeless. There are many very special qualities and ways of being that autism can bring to individuals and to all of us in general.”

(Photo by AngelsWings via Flickr Creative Commons)

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