At present, there is no cure for autism. Nor do children outgrow it. But the capacity to learn and develop new skills is within every child.

With time, children with autism mature and new strengths emerge. Many children with autism seem to go through developmental spurts between ages 5 and 13. Some spontaneously begin to talk — even if repetitively — around age 5 or later. Some, like Paul, become more sociable, or like Alan, more ready to learn. Over time, and with help, children may learn to play with toys appropriately, function socially, and tolerate mild changes in routine. Some children in treatment programs lose enough of their most disabling symptoms to function reasonably well in a regular classroom. Some children with autism make truly dramatic strides. Of course, those with normal or near-normal intelligence and those who develop language tend to have the best outcomes. But even children who start off poorly may make impressive progress. For example, one boy, after 9 years in a program that involved parents as co-therapists, advanced from an IQ of 70 to an IQ of 100 and began to get average grades at a regular school.

While it is natural for parents to hope that their child will "become normal," they should take pride in whatever strides their child does make. Many parents, looking back over the years, find their child has progressed far beyond their initial expectations.