What Does the Future Hold For Someone With Autism?

One of the first questions that parents ask after their child has been diagnosed with autism concerns the prognosis or outlook. They also want to know what factors might influence that prognosis over the child’s lifetime. There is no one answer that every doctor can hand out to every parent who is concerned about the outlook. That is because there is no one kind of autism that covers every diagnosis. Each child with autism is unique. The causes of the disorder vary from child to child, and therefore the prognosis will vary as well. Another consideration is the presence of any other conditions that the child may have. For example, if the child has epilepsy or some other medical problem that can be identified and treated effectively, that might improve the prognosis.

Still, there is no known cure for autism. In some cases, children do seem to recover – so much so that the diagnosis of ASD is withdrawn. Sometimes this happens after intensive treatment but not always. In some instances, children aged five or older who have not previously spoken do acquire speech. For most children, symptoms frequently become milder as the child gets older. However, the core problems – such as difficulties with social interactions – generally remain. According to some experts, the following factors suggest a better prognosis:

  • Having an I.Q. above 50
  • Ability to speak before age six
  • Having a useful skill

Although autism continues to be a difficult disorder for children and their families, today’s prognosis is a far improvement over what it was 30 years ago. At that time, it was not unusual for people with autism to be placed in institutions. These days, with the proper diagnosis and early initiation of treatment, many of the symptoms of autism can be reduced — although the majority of people will never be entirely free of symptoms. Just how well the person functions depends on the degree of the disorder as well as the timing and level of treatment.

Some adults with autism, especially those who are high-functioning or who have Asperger syndrome, are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs. However, communication and social problems often cause difficulties in many areas of life. These people will continue to need encouragement and moral support in their struggle for an independent life.

Many others with autism are able to work in special environments especially if they are supervised by managers trained in working with persons with disabilities. A nurturing environment at home, at school, and later in job training and at work, helps persons with autism continue to learn and to develop throughout their lives.

The public schools’ responsibility for providing services ends when the person with autism reaches the age of 22. The family is then faced with the challenge of finding living arrangements and employment to match the particular needs of their adult child, as well as the programs and facilities that can provide support services to achieve these goals.

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Want to learn more about how autism might affect your child’s future?

Autism Society of America

National Institute of Mental Health