Accurate Naming: Optimal Outcome or Loss of Autism Diagnosis?

July 11, 2022

Researchers Lobby for Best Term for Individuals Who Move off the Spectrum

Previous research shows that by age 19, approximately 9% of those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will largely overcome core difficulties associated with the condition and no longer retain an autism diagnosis. Over the years, many terms have been used to describe this situation, including optimal outcome, optimal progress, bloomers, best possible outcome, and recovery. “Optimal outcome” has been a favored term of one team of researchers, who are now revisiting their choice. In a recent editorial published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers Inge-Marie Eigsti, Deborah Fein, and Caroline Larson maintain that no longer meeting the criteria for an ASD diagnosis does not automatically equate to a good outcome for the individual. Therefore, they feel that another term should be used instead. While searching for better terminology, the researchers first identified which situations and skills would constitute good or optimal outcomes for people previously on the spectrum. They suggested that autonomy, access to education, competent daily living skills, social relationships beyond family members, and employment/activities outside the home are just a few positive outcomes or indicators of a successful life. With this list in mind, the editorial’s authors proposed a new term that also included stipulations. The team decided that “loss of autism diagnosis” (LAD) coupled with the previously listed measures of long-term outcomes from the perspective of the individual themselves as well as standardized measures from parents/caregivers would be the best term for this relatively unique situation. These same researchers are now conducting a long-term study on individuals who meet these criteria. They hope to gain more perspective on their lives to help those who will face a similar situation in the future. 

Original Editorial

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons