A new study that claims some children outgrow autism has divided the medical community, and some expert say it is downright misleading. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
Preston Burger is a 27-year-old professional dancer who graduated from Princeton University in 2007. He is full of energy and ambition and is ready to take the dance world by storm.
As a youngster, Burger was diagnosed with autism.
"This is very real and I'm never going to be cured nor do I want to be, necessarily," he says. "Like, it was miserable at the time but on the flip side, I don't want to be cured."
A new report finds that some people with autism may indeed outgrow or "recover" from it. Researchers with the National Institutes of Mental Health find "some children who are accurately diagnosed in early childhood with autism lose the symptoms and the diagnosis as they grow older."
Doctors focused on 34 children who were diagnosed with autism in early life who are now functioning no differently than their mainstream peers.
Burger gets counseling from a Queens-based program called The Compass Project, which focuses on the needs of teenagers and young adults as they transition to the work force.
His mental health counselor, Evan Oppenheimer, has mixed reactions to the study.
"I've been doing this for five years. I've never seen anyone make such marked progress that all of their symptoms of autism have nearly disappeared," Oppenheimer says.
Those who work in the field will readily admit no two autism cases are alike. Burger has Asberger's, an autism spectrum disorder that is marked by developmental delays but usually normal intelligence.
Elsie Hahn Felix, the director of The Compass Project, is troubled by the NIMH study.
"Tremendous dismay. I have not seen young people recover. I've seen them adapt, and I think there's a big difference," says Felix.
Researchers concede that more studies with larger groups of patients need to be done to further investigate the issue.
For more information the Jewish Child Care Association, visit www.jccany.org or call 212-425-3333.