Watch: CARD Study on Children that Lost Autism Diagnosis

Last week the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) released the results of a study of 14 children with autism, seven of which ultimately lost their diagnosis.

Following is a press release that the organization published on November 12.


Study Reveals Children Recover From Autism With Intensive Three-Year Behavioral Therapy

Center for Autism and Related Disorders Releases Results From Three-Year Study

A landmark study proves that children are capable of recovery from autism, or of making substantial gains in cognitive and adaptive functioning, as well as language skills, according to results released last night by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, founder of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc. (CARD).

The three-year study, which the State of Arizona funded and CARD, the world’s largest provider of early intensive behavioral intervention for children with autism, conducted, evaluated the effects of behavioral intervention for 14 young children with autism using a version of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) that blends structured teaching with play-based behavioral intervention. Today, 43 percent of the study’s participants no longer display clinical symptoms of autism and most of the participants demonstrate significant improvements in functioning.

In accordance with previous research, CARD found that many of the children made substantial gains in cognitive and adaptive functioning, as well as language skills. Most of the children also demonstrated significant improvements in executive functioning. After treatment, the average T-score for the group on the BRIEF, a measure of overall executive functioning, was 61, well below the cut-off for clinically significant impairment. In addition, 8 out of 14 children were functioning in the average range on the Vineland ABC, a measure of overall adaptive functioning, whereas only 2 of 14 were in the average range before treatment began.

“Years ago, some doctors would tell parents that they should institutionalize their children after an autism diagnosis,” said Dr. Granpeesheh. “Today, we know that autism is treatable and recovery is possible with the right services. Every child deserves a chance to learn and grow, and we hope that these results provide hope to families of newly diagnosed children.”

Among the study’s major findings is that children who developed language skills early in therapy made greater gains over time. The children who did not recover from autism still made substantial gains in their abilities to communicate and live independently. Even the children whose progress was slowest experienced significant decreases in challenging behaviors and increases in independent communication and leisure skills, thereby resulting in improved self-reliance and quality of life.

“My daughter is now recovered from autism,” said Elizabeth Howell, parent of a study participant. “When people meet her and interact with her, they cannot believe that she ever had an autism diagnosis.”

All children in the study received 25 or more hours per week of one-on-one teaching and therapy. A careful assessment of each child’s strengths and deficits led to targeted teaching programs. Treatment plans were based on children’s motivations and activities were based on their interests.

“The behavioral intervention was intensive, comprehensive and high-quality,” said Dr. Amy Kenzer, CARD research manager. “These factors play a major role in the outcomes observed.”

Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that is marked by the presence of impaired social interaction and communication and a restricted repertoire of activities and interests. Autism is estimated to affect as many as 1 in 110 children in America and is four times more common in boys than in girls.

The Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc. (CARD) is the world’s largest and most experienced organizations effectively treating children with autism and related disorders. For more information about CARD, visit

What are your thoughts on the results of this study?

About Melissa

Melissa is the mother of two children on the autism spectrum and strives to provide information about all aspects of autism through her blog, The Autism Education Site. Follow Melissa on Twitter. Like me on Facebook.

© Melissa Hincha-Ownby and The Autism Education Site, 2008-2014.


  1. Why is this study not being made public. CARD stands to make millions of dollars on these very thin findings. They, and the State of Arizona have a fiduciary responsibility to make the findings, study design, and caveats available to the public and for peer review. We all, especially parents of children who hold their hearts in their hands and have had their hopes raised, have a right to view the study rather than read what the CARD group says the research says.

    • I was disappointed to see that the study required login credentials to view. I hope that CARD makes the data public and I’d love to see it peer reviewed (if it hasn’t already been).

  2. This is such a ray of hope and the information should be shared with Regional Center and School Distircts so that intensive early interventino is available to all children with these disorders. Hooray for ABA!! However, the follow up was not very long, and sometimes residual symptoms remain, and parents must be vigilant about maintaining age appropraite supports and services through the developmental period.


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