Then main paragraph that stuck out for me was this:
"It became clear that the children in the optimal outcome group - the ones who no longer had recognisable signs of autism - had had milder social deficits than the high-functioning autism group in early childhood, although they did have other autism symptoms, like repetitive behaviours and communication problems, that were as severe"
For me it is glaringly obvious. The reason that this group of people no longer had some of the recognisable signs of autism is that they had been supported, and helped, and taught how to deal with everyday life so that they could live independently. They have been taught how to act in certain social situations. They have been taught how to copy behaviours that don't come naturally to them. The study acknowledges that their other difficulties were just as severe.
I will use my son as an example, even though he is only 9, that illustrates how (with the correct support) someone on the spectrum can be taught how to do things that may not come naturally to them, or that they may not be able to do otherwise.
A few months ago, if I had asked J to go and clean his teeth, he would go upstairs, clean them for a few seconds, and then in his opinion that was job done. He had cleaned his teeth. But I knew that he hadn't cleaned them properly. Unless I stood over him, telling him which teeth to clean and for how long, then he wouldn't be able to do it properly. Then his Autism Outreach worker made this chart for him:
In a few weeks he has gone from needing to be reminded to clean his teeth, and being supervised while doing it, to independently going to get his chart every morning and evening, timing himself cleaning his teeth on each section of the chart, and doing it perfectly. This is a small example of how someone on the spectrum can be taught a life skill, can be taught to be independent. He may memorise all the steps and be able to do it without needing the chart at some point. He may still use it as an adult, and go to work with no one knowing that he uses a chart to help him to clean his teeth correctly every morning and evening. Either way it doesn't matter, the point is he has been taught how to do it. He hasn't grown out of it. He has been taught it and supported in his learning.
He hasn't grown out of it.
Autism is a lifelong disability, and he will need support, help and understanding throughout his life.