What is regressive autism?

Regressive autism, also known as late-onset autism, is a form of autism where a child appears to develop normally but then begins to lose social, communication, and behavioral skills, usually around the age of 18-24 months. It is a relatively rare form of autism, accounting for approximately 10-20% of all autism diagnoses.

In typical development, children develop social and communication skills rapidly in the first two years of life. However, in children with regressive autism, they may suddenly stop making eye contact, lose previously acquired language skills, or have difficulty interacting with others. This regression can be particularly distressing for parents and carers, as they may have initially felt relieved that their child was not showing any signs of developmental delay.

The exact cause of regressive autism is not yet known, but there are several theories about the possible underlying factors. Some researchers believe that the regression may be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For example, a genetic predisposition to autism may be triggered by an environmental stressor, such as a viral infection. Other researchers believe that the regression may be due to a neurological condition that causes inflammation in the brain, leading to the loss of previously acquired skills.

One of the challenges in diagnosing regressive autism is that the symptoms may be similar to those of other developmental disorders. For example, a child with regressive autism may also show symptoms of ADHD or an intellectual disability. To receive a diagnosis of regressive autism, a child must meet the criteria for autism as outlined in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition) and have a documented loss of skills.

Diagnosing regressive autism requires a thorough evaluation by a team of professionals, including a pediatrician, psychologist, speech therapist, and neurologist. The evaluation process typically involves a medical history review, a developmental assessment, and a detailed evaluation of the child's behavior and communication skills.

Once a child has been diagnosed with regressive autism, early intervention is critical to help them develop the skills they need to succeed in life. This may involve a combination of behavioral and educational interventions, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy. Parents and carers can also play an important role in supporting their child's development by creating a structured and predictable environment, using visual aids and signs, and providing opportunities for social interaction.

There is currently no cure for regressive autism, but with early diagnosis and appropriate intervention, many children with regressive autism can make significant progress in their development. However, the journey can be difficult for families, and it is important for them to seek support from local organizations and support groups -- and Alliance ABA Therapy. 

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