Thursday, February 07, 2008

Clinic Notes: Prognosis for a Child with Autism

Every parent wants to know what the future holds for his or her child. And this is especially true for a child with a disability such as autism. What is the prognosis for a child with autism? Well years ago I remember reading articles asking what happens to children with autism when they become adults? Back then children with autism just seemed to disappear--absorbed into society in one-way or another. The stats were 1 in 2500, later 1 in 500. But now with 1 in 150 children with an autism diagnosis how will the picture look like when these kids are grown?
Last week one parent told me that a speech-language pathologist told her that her child had severe autism and would never amount to anything. This seemed to me a very cruel thing to say to a mother, but setting that aside how accurate was this prediction? I remember reading that 50% of children with autism also had mental retardation and 10% were savant. But I wonder about the accuracy of this statement because I know a lot of children with autism have performance deficits. In other words, they know the correct answer to a question, but choose to not give the correct answer for one reason or another. If 50% of children behave as if they have mental retardation what programs will be available for them after they leave the school system? (Group homes and sheltered workshops now have long waiting lists.) I have not seen this problem addressed by any candidate running for any office. Maybe children with autism will just be absorbed into society when they grow up like they were in the past. But I doubt it.