The term regression refers to a loss of previously acquired skills, such as language, motor, or life skills. Although not all children with ASDs experience such a loss, it has been documented that a substantial number of them do, especially in the realm of language. In fact, a child’s loss of previously acquired words has been described as a “useful red flag for ASD in a significant minority of cases.”

Researcher Sally Rogers of the U.C. Davis M.I.N.D. Institute describes three patterns of autism onset:

  1. No period of typical development — autism symptoms present from birth
  2. Developmental plateau — child begins to reach developmental milestones and then stops acquiring new skills
  3. Regression — child loses skills

How common is it?

Published studies have reported regression in speech, use of gestures and general development in between 22% and 50% of children with ASD’s.

Are there differences between children with autism who regress and those who don’t?

Published studies have concluded “developmental recession in ASD’s appears to be a typical event in the natural course of autism.  There is little difference in maternal perceptions and reports of development, family, and medical history.

What’s the outcome for children who regress?

Studies have found that most of the children regained the lost skills in response to timely individualized therapy.

What should I do if my child is experiencing regression?

If you suspect autism, it’s advised to not delay screening and early intervention.  Contact your pediatrician for a prompt referral to rule out autism.  To find a resource near you visit our Provider & Resource Directory.

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