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After An Autism Diagnosis, Why Do Some Children "Bloom" And Others Do Not?

For Release: April 2, 2012

​​​​​​Although most children diagnosed with autism retain the diagnosis as adolescents, there are substantial differences in their developmental trajectories. Learning more about the pathways children take may help illuminate how etiology, family characteristics and treatment can shape the disorder. A study in the May 2012 issue of Pediatrics describes the most common paths that children with autism take from the time they are diagnosed through age 14.

The study, “Six Developmental Trajectories Characterize Children With Autism,” published online April 2, examined autism symptoms that were recorded annually for nearly 7,000 children with autism in California who were born between 1992 and 2001. Researchers tracked the children’s communication, social, and repetitive behavior trajectories. They found some children improved rapidly, especially in communication and social behaviors, whereas the trajectories of other children were slower and less likely to reveal significant improvement. In contrast, children’s repetitive behavior trajectories remained relatively stable. About 10 percent of children, identified in the study as “bloomers,” improved especially quickly and moved from severely affected to high functioning. Children on the highest trajectories tended to have been born in the most recent cohorts; and to be born to more educated, white mothers. Children whose parents are in the lowest socio-economic strata are much less likely to bloom than those better advantaged. Given the socioeconomic differences they found, study authors conclude equal access to early intervention and treatment resources for less-advantaged children is vital.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.

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