More than 30 per cent of people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will not get better by their sixth birthday, according to a study.
The results, published today in the journal Autism Research, show that when people have an ASD at birth, it can be hard to understand and understand the condition.
Professor of Psychology and Autism at the University of Melbourne Dr Robert Paine, who led the study, said the results were “heartbreaking” and that it showed the difficulties of people who had an ASD and did not get well by the time they were teenagers.
“It’s very clear that the symptoms are not well understood,” he said.
“So I think it’s important that people who have an autism, and they’re not able to communicate their autism to the wider community, understand it and we can get on with them as adults.”
Dr Paine said there were two main reasons for this, one being the early diagnosis of ASD.
“The other reason is that when you get an early diagnosis, your parents and grandparents are very good at identifying problems and so you have a very low chance of going into care at that age, and so it’s easier to get the diagnosis later,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
Dr Pane said the autism spectrum was “complex” and had “multiple” features.
“If you look at autism as a group, it’s a spectrum of symptoms,” he explained.
“And that’s why when you have an early ASD diagnosis, it might be hard for the family and the person with autism to understand what they’re experiencing.”
The researchers said the study also highlighted the importance of understanding what an autism diagnosis was, and what is meant by “normal”.
“Normal” is a concept that can be used to describe a range of conditions, including autism, that are not necessarily caused by neurological issues, Dr Paine added.
“What we found is that a diagnosis of autism, at least for children, is a pretty good predictor of a child’s future functioning, particularly in the early years,” he added.
The findings come just months after the first case of the disease was recorded in New South Wales.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said it was working with the Government to ensure the health system was equipped with appropriate supports for people with autism spectrum disorders.
“We’re working to provide support for children and adults who have autism spectrum conditions,” AMA chief executive Dr Andrew Nellis said.
“Autism spectrum disorders can be extremely challenging to manage, and it is important that we all understand what autism means and what it does to a child and to their future.”