Question: What is the prognosis for a child with autism, and what influences how much progress individuals with autism make across their lifetimes?
Answer: One of the most common questions that people ask after they've been given the diagnosis of autism relates to the prognosis and what factors might inform how that prognosis is going to play out over the lifetime of the affected individual.
It's important when we think about prognosis to take a step back and remember that there is no such thing as one kind of autism, that every child with autism is unique. There are so many different causes that we know could relate to autism, and so the prognosis is going to vary, both as a function of the cause and also as a function of associated conditions that a child might have.
There's no better way to be wrong than to try to predict the future, but we know that the prognosis is better today than it ever has been. With the advent of earlier identification and early intervention, the prognosis is much better now than ever before.
There are other factors that certainly play into the prognosis, including whether a child has intellectual disability or has epilepsy or some other medical problem that may go along with autism, or whether there is a known genetic problem. If these factors are identified and also treated well, the prognosis may be very good.