Does Autism Get Worse With Age? (Facts)

Does autism get worse with age? Here are the facts you probably didn’t know.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
August 3rd, 2022

Does High Functioning Autism Get Worse With Age?

Are you wondering, “can autism get worse with age”?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Today we’ll cover if autism can get worse with age, how autism develops, autism signs in kids, teenagers, and adults, and much more.

does autism get worse with age

What Can Cause Autism Symptoms To Worsen As People Get Older?

Autism does not change or worsen as someone gets older, and there’s no cure. Autism isn’t like a pair of shoes that needs to be broken in for complete comfort.

Read More: Is There A Cure For Autism?

This is because no matter what you’ve heard, the notion that you’ll wake up one day no longer autistic is, was, and will forever be untrue.

However, it can be more clear to parents as their child grows that they’re different from others, and thus make it more clear that their child should be checked by professionals.

What Happens To Severely Autistic Children When They Get Older?

Researchers found that age and severity of the disorder were linked – that is, as age increased so did the severity of autism symptoms in social situations, flexible thinking, and communication.

How Does Autism Develop? Can You Develop Autism?

Scientists believe that both environment and genetics probably play a role in the development of autism.

Many are concerned that rates of autism have increased in large numbers in recent decades without a full explanation as to why.

Read More: How Many People Have Autism?

In fact, researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder.

Interestingly, differences of the development of several regions of the brain were found in imaging studies of people with the disorder.

Studies suggest that the disorder could be a result of disruptions in regular brain growth very early in its development, which could be the result of gene defects that control brain development as well as regulate how brain cells communicate.

It’s well-known that autism is more common in children born prematurely.

Also, environmental factors play a role in gene development and function, however, no specific causes from the environment have yet been identified.

Also, multiple studies have shown that vaccination to prevent childhood infectious diseases doesn’t increase the chance of getting autism.

Autism Signs In Infants

As any parent knows, tiny babies need around-the-clock care.

Occasionally, they seem incapable of communicating their need to sleep, eat, and stay clean.

However, always remember your new baby’s brain is constantly growing and changing, and sometimes those changes can indicate ASD.

The majority of children with autism start showing symptoms by age 12 to 18 months.

However, the changes can be very subtle and easy to miss.

New parents might be so focused on keeping their babies healthy that the tiny signs of autism pass by unnoticed.

Researchers have spotted autism markers in boys as young as 2 to 6 months.

However, those markers involve where the tiny babies look when presented with a human face. Instead of staring deep into the person’s eyes, they usually look up slightly.

This is a cue that you (or anyone) could potentially miss spotting.

Here are several recognizable symptoms in children up to age 1 year:

  1. Few facial expressions. For example, your child might not smile or show joy even if you smile at them.
  2. Lack of nonverbal engagement. For example, your child might not wave, point, or reach for you.
  3. Reduced eye contact. An example of this would be that your child might not meet you in the eyes.
  4. Slow verbal development. Your child might not mimic sounds or babble. They also might not show a reaction when you say their name.

It might be easier for you to notice these signs if you have another child in the home.

Comparisons of your children’s behavior could help the subtle differences stand out and get noticed.

Also, be on the lookout for how your child behaves compared to other children during play dates or family gatherings.

Autism Signs In 2-Year-Old Children

Autism signs may be easier for you to see as your child grows older.

In the infant stage, you might have spent time guessing and wondering if your child has autism.

However, once a child is a 2-year-old, you may be able to more clearly see how your child differs, and your doctor may be able to confirm any suspicions that arise.

A neurotypical 2-year-old child can:

  1. Say sentences consisting of a few words.
  2. Clap, laugh, and wave.
  3. Connect with other children through mimicry and games.
  4. Follow straightforward instructions.

However, an autistic child at age 2 years might:

  1. Have a small social circle.
  2. Repeat sounds or behaviors.
  3. Get upset at disruptions.
  4. Enjoy routines.
  5. Speak not at all or very little.

Noticing these behaviors can be challenging if you don’t pay close attention.

If your child is diagnosed at 2 years of age, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the disorder worsened brain health between infancy and this age.

It could mean that your child always had autism, but there wasn’t a way to confirm that until he/she got older.

However, one potential exception is some children seem neurotypical up to age 2 years, and they then experience a regression.

For example, skills they developed fade away, and they fold back into themselves while withdrawing from those they love. Interestingly, researchers don’t know why autism regression occurs.

Autism Signs In Children Ages 3 to 5 years

Does Autism Get Worse After Age 3?

Your child is screened for autism symptoms at every checkup.

Some children are newly diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 5 years, and others have already been diagnosed and are just being monitored.

Here are several common autism signs in older children:

  1. Emotional awareness. Your child may not be able to tell you their feelings.
  2. Spontaneity. Your child enjoys sticking to routines and feels upset if they are broken.
  3. Variety. Your child likes a narrow set of topics and isn’t interested in broadening their interests.
  4. Outward signs of compassion. Your child might not seem to understand how you feel or think. They might prefer to be alone, even if that hurts others.

These symptoms might seem more severe than those you might’ve noticed in a younger child.

However, appearances can be deceiving, and as your child ages, expectations around behavior will broaden.

It’s normal for parents to assume that their children will be more interested, flexible, and engaged with the world as they get older.

And it’s very easy to notice a child who doesn’t develop in this way, but it’s important to know that you aren’t observing a deepening of the disorder’s severity.

You’re simply noticing how autism is changing the way your child behaves as they develop.

Children diagnosed with the disorder at a young age can begin early intervention therapy. At times, that helps them manage their symptoms. And sometimes children seem to age out of some autism signs.

Interestingly, researchers say that around 30% of children with autism have less-severe symptoms at the age of 6 years than they did at the age of 3 years.

Nobody is sure why some children seem to improve significantly while others don’t. Either way, it’s an encouraging sign that seems to indicate that autism doesn’t worsen with age.

Read More: Average Attention Span

Autism Signs In Teenagers

By the time your child is ready to start high school, they may have been dealing with their autism symptoms for years.

However, if your child was just diagnosed for the first time as a teenager, they’re not alone.

autistic child with therapist

Some families don’t see clear behavior signs linked to the disorder until the child is a teenager.

As your child was growing up, you may have noticed that they were a little different than other children. You might have even been working with a doctor to find the cause.

There’s a concrete chance that it may be that your child reaches a developmental milestone which will help you finally pinpoint exactly what sets your child apart from others.

Here are several common signs of autism in teenagers:

  1. Focus. For example, your child has a specific set of interests, such as a certain sport, and will discuss those interests very frequently at length.
  2. Rigidity. Routines are important to your child, including where they sit in the car or classroom. Rules are typically followed exactly, and any change of schedule causes trauma.
  3. Poor communication skills. Your child uses an usual way of making eye contact (too little or too much), stands too close to others, or talks far too loudly. They may also say things that hurt others.
  4. Lack of nonverbal skills. Your child may not understand other people’s facial expressions and what others try to express to them.

These symptoms shouldn’t be used as an indication that autism is worsening.

Instead, you should think of these signs as indicators of how autism changes the way children deal with specific challenges that appear throughout life.

The majority of experts believe that autism persists throughout the lifespan, but your child’s symptoms can improve as they get older.

There are several things you can do as a parent to ensure that your child has the happiest, most meaningful, and healthiest future possible:

  1. Advocate. Work with a professional to get a clear diagnosis, and with it, ensure that your child has all of the support they need.
  2. Love. Your child needs your love even if it’s not easy to express with words.
  3. Learn. Learn what your child needs and how you can offer it to them in a supportive and kind way. It’s crucial that you’re open-minded and empathetic when speaking with your child.
  4. Explain. Shut down bullies, help extended family members with appropriate conversation topics and terminology, and be your child’s voice as needed.

Can Mild Autism Go Away? Can You Grow Out Of Autism?

In short, no. There is no known cure for the disorder which is a lifelong diagnosis.

There are several degrees of autism and levels of disability.

Some children with milder symptoms can learn how to manage the disorder more effectively than those with more severe symptoms.

Can Autism Get Worse If Untreated?

When Autism goes untreated, is misdiagnosed, or the diagnosis is delayed, negative symptoms associated with the disorder can worsen over time.

Without sufficient support from parents and professionals, children may not develop competent skills with regards to learning, social interactions, or speech.

When Does Autism Get Easier?

A new study found that around 30% of young autistic children have less severe symptoms at age 6 than they did at age 3.

Interestingly, some children lose their autism diagnoses entirely.

Can An Autistic Child Become Normal?

Yes, some children with autism become more engaged with the world and show fewer disturbances in their behavior as they mature.

In fact, those with the least severe problems eventually might lead normal or near-normal lives.

Can Autism Get Worse With Stress?

A recent survey by the National Autistic Society found that 59% of autistic people said anxiety had a large impact on their ability to get on with their life.

High levels of anxiety for autistic people can lead to meltdown, burnout, exhaustion, and autistic fatigue.

steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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