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Does Autism Get Worse With Age? All You Need to Know

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As parents of children with autism, one of the questions that often weighs heavily on our minds is whether autism gets more challenging as our child grows older. Will your child be able to make friends? Will he or she be able to navigate the complexities of adolescence and adulthood? It’s a question filled with concern and uncertainty. You want the best for your child and strive to understand the path ahead.

In this article, we’ll delve into this question, seeking clarity and insight into what lies ahead for children on the autism spectrum.

How Does Autism Change as Individuals Grow Older?

Autistic Child at the Classroom Reading a Book

Understanding how autism changes as individuals grow older isn’t simple. While some parts of autism might get harder to manage with age, other aspects could get better or stay the same. It’s essential to remember that autism isn’t the same for everyone—it’s a spectrum disorder, which means it affects each person in different ways. So, what might be true for one person with autism may not be the same for another. This complexity makes it crucial to take each individual’s unique needs and strengths into account when considering how autism evolves over time.

At What Age Autism Peaks

Autism typically presents itself in early childhood, with symptoms often becoming apparent around the age of two or three. However, autism is a lifelong condition, and there isn’t a specific age at which it peaks for everyone. Some individuals may experience more significant challenges in adolescence, while others may see improvements in certain areas as they reach adulthood.

From Infant to Teen to Adulthood

The journey of autism from infancy to adulthood is unique for each individual. Early signs of autism may include:

  • difficulties with social interaction
  • communication delays
  • repetitive behaviors
  • sensory sensitivities

As children grow older, these symptoms may evolve and manifest differently, posing new challenges along the way.

Does It Differ Between Girls and Boys?

Autism can present differently between boys and girls, with girls often exhibiting fewer stereotypical behaviors than boys. Boys might exhibit noticeable challenges in social interactions, while girls may appear more socially adept on the surface, making their autism less apparent. Additionally, girls may have a broader range of interests that align more closely with societal norms, making it harder to identify their atypical behaviors.This can make it challenging to recognize autism in girls, leading to delayed diagnosis and intervention. Understanding these differences is crucial for early identification and support.

What Might Cause Autism to Get Worse as The Child Gets Older?

Family with Autistic Child at a Consultation

As kids with autism get older, things can get tougher for them. When they’re young, they might get away with certain behaviors, but as they grow up, life gets more demanding. It’s important to note that their autism itself doesn’t actually get worse—it just becomes more obvious as they face more responsibilities and expectations in adulthood.

Additionally, several factors can influence the progression of autism as a child grows older including:

  • Stress
  • Changes in routine
  • Puberty
  • Increased social demands

Co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may further complicate the picture.

How Does It Change?

The way autism presents itself can change over time. Symptoms may fluctuate in severity, and individuals may develop coping mechanisms to navigate social situations and sensory challenges. 

How Do Symptoms Change in Mild, Severe, and High-Functioning Cases?

Mild Autism

  • Improvement in some areas with support and therapy.
  • Challenges may still exist in making friends or adjusting to changes.

Severe Autism

  • Challenges may become more noticeable with age.
  • Increased need for assistance with daily tasks and communication.

High-Functioning Autism

The Importance of Early Intervention

It’s crucial to act early when it comes to supporting children with autism. By spotting the signs of autism in infants and toddlers, we can get them the help they need sooner. Early intervention programs like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy can be really effective. They’re designed to help kids with autism learn and develop important skills, which can make a big difference in their lives. If you’re looking for support or information about ABA therapy, Heartlinks ABA is a great place to reach out—we’re here to help families like yours.


It’s important to recognize that autism is different for everyone, and there’s no one way it progresses with age. What’s key is understanding each child’s unique needs and offering personalized support and intervention. Early detection, diagnosis, and access to effective interventions like ABA therapy can truly transform the lives of individuals with autism, empowering them to flourish as they get older. If you’re seeking support or more information about ABA therapy, Heartlinks ABA is here to lend a helping hand on this journey.

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