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The Kids Who Beat Autism Versus the Reality for Most Families

The New York Times explores “optimal outcomes” in autism – rare individuals who overcome symptoms, usually with intensive therapy
July 31, 2014

This coming Sunday's New York Times Magazine takes an in-depth look at the estimated one-in-ten children with autism spectrum disorder who make such dramatic progress with therapy that they would no longer be considered autistic.

"Access to care and treatment is essential for all individuals diagnosed with autism because we know that early intervention and behavioral therapies such as ABA can dramatically improve outcomes,” says Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. “For years we have fought for insurance coverage for autism treatments so all individuals with autism have the opportunity to reach their potential. Otherwise, with treatment costing up to $60,000 a year, these therapies will remain out of reach for most families. We must ensure that there is no discrimination in access to care."

Currently, only 37 states mandate some level of health coverage for autism therapies, and Autism Speaks is campaigning heavily in North Carolina to make it the 38th.

In addition, the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network is dedicated to better understanding and treating the many serious medical conditions – including epilepsy, sleep disorders and chronic gastrointestinal problems – that commonly accompany autism, often to a serious degree.

As noted in the New York Times article, research suggests that early and intensive behavioral therapy greatly increases the likelihood of optimal outcomes. However, an estimated 40 percent of individuals with autism remain nonverbal, and many are so severely affected that they require round-the-clock care for life.

“Just as autism itself is highly variable, we're coming to realize how widely long-term outcomes can vary from one individual to another,” adds developmental pediatrician Paul Wang, Autism Speaks senior vice president for medical research. “We feel it’s very important to understand the factors that allow some children to progress more quickly in social, communication and other skills, when other children progress more slowly despite receiving the same interventions. Autism Speaks is increasing its focus on this important research issue.”

Read the full New York Times story, online ahead of print, here.

Plus, read The Kids Who Don’t Beat Autism, a post by author Joel Yanofsky on the New York Times parenting blog. Yanofsky is the father of a teenage son with autism.