All parents have one burning question throughout all the trials, emotions, treatments, financial challenges, medications (if any) and ongoing quest to help their child: Will he/she "grow out" of it or become "normal" over time. Will they be able to have a "normal" life, be able to get a reasonable job and have a happy and fulfilling family?
While there is no easy and clear answer that applies to every autistic child (which is why parents often don't get a clear answer to the above questions from professionals), here are some guidelines that we've learned over the years that provide some insight for parents:
1) To what extent they "recover" from autism depends on several factors, including a) how early the autism diagnosis occurs and treatment begins, b) the severity on the autistic spectrum (high functioning to severe), c) the attitude, willingness, and sacrifices parents are willing to make to review, consider and implement the appropriate treatments for their child, starting as early as possible, and d) the ability for each individual child to respond to the treatments, learn, and implement typical behaviors over the years of treatment they undergo.
2) We at REACT Foundation believe, as well as many other professionals in the area of autism, that early intervention is the key to "recovery" (that's a broad word) of autism. Recovery as we define it is that the child may grow up to be "mainstreamed" with the neurologically typical (NT) kids in school and social situations, and grow to lead a normal life in terms of work and family. This does not mean they may not seem a bit "quarky" or "nerdy" (autism is sometimes called the "geek" syndrome), but we believe that's a small price if the child grows up to be happy and have a "normal" life. We also want to stress that, regardless of how the child works his way through the autistic behaviors, ALL these children, "recovered" or not, may lead a very happy and fulfilling life regardless of the success of their treatments. Autistic children are truly unique and impressive skill and insight.... and must be accepted as such in our society. The best success for recovery is a combination of language and behavior improvement, social awareness, as well as acceptance of the differences in our incredible autistic children! Most important of all, during the treatments and therapies, is to keep up the child's self-esteem by letting them know they're wonderful as they are, while teaching them in concrete terms the realities of social behavior and appropriate language.
3) There are many autistic adults or adults that have some "autistic tendencies or behaviours" that lead perfectly normal and successful lives. Temple Grandin is one example (just search on the internet for Temple Grandin and you'll find her book and other great information). Even Bill Gates is considered by many to have high functioning autistic traits (back to the "geek" syndrome"). Albert Einstien was also considered by many to be high functioning autistic. There are many professionals in our society with autistic traits, that many just pass off as personality traits....not autism per se. Certainly, before autism was commonly diagnosed early as it is now, there were those people that had autistic triats that grew up to lead normal lives, though they probably still have issues with social situations, speech patterns and interpersonal relations. One key is to TEACH appropriate social behaviors and speech to these kids EARLY, while their minds are the most open to learning (think of kids that easily learn two or more languages while they're young).
4) Our message to parents is to constantly strive to provide all the early intervention and support you can for your autistic child, while accepting and embracing their differences, so you don't miss out on the process itself and the years with your child that can never be replaced. Love and perserverance will ultimately lead to "recovery", however you define it with your child, and will lead to the happiest and most fulfilling life for the child and the family.