Approximately one in every 68 children is diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition usually expected to be a life-long diagnosis. In some cases, however, symptoms of autism resolve themselves after a few years but a new study reveals some cognitive and social symptoms may linger and require on-going educational support for best long-term outcomes.

Dr. Lisa H. Shulman, an associate professor of clinical pediatrics of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City, presented the findings of her study to the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Diego on April 26 at the organization’s annual meeting. She and her research team evaluated the status of 38 children who had been diagnosed with ASD in early childhood but whose ASD had resolved itself approximately four years later, at about the time the children were entering elementary school.

The children in Shulman’s study were part of a group of 569 children under care for ASD between 2003 and 2013. While 36% of the 38 with resolved ASD were Caucasian, others are of a demographically different group of children than those usually involved in ASD studies:

  • 44% Hispanic
  • 10% African-American
  • 46% of Medicaid beneficiaries

According to Shulman, most of the children in the study displayed intellectual disability when diagnosed as autistic but intellectual cognition was normal after ASD symptoms resolved. Most of these children also overcame the social impairment characteristic of the disorder.

In spite of the end of symptoms of autism, 92% of the children exhibited residual learning impairments and/or lingering problems with emotional and behavioral development. Only three of the 38 exhibited no symptoms of autism or of any lingering behavioral, emotional, or learning disabilities.

Of the children who continued to need on-going developmental support:

  • 68% had problems with language development.
  • 50% exhibiting externalizing disorders that include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other disruptive behaviors.
  • 24% experienced internalizing problems that include anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism.
  • Almost 75% needed special academic support, such as placement in smaller-than-usual classes and study in special resource classrooms.

Shulman, who is also an attending physician at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, says it is important for parents, healthcare providers, and the educational system to understand how important it is to maintain on-going interventions after resolved ASD to ensure the best possible outcomes for long-term success. "Autism generally has been considered a lifelong condition, but 7 percent of children in this study who received an early diagnosis experienced a resolution of autistic symptoms over time," she said.


  1. "Some children lose autism diagnosis but still struggle (press release)." EurekAlert! American Academy of Pediatrics, 26 Apr. 2015. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Web. 3 May 2015.
  2. "Einstein Experts: Lisa H. Shulman, MD." Einstein. Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, n.d. Web. 3 May 2015.