Regressive autism (A complete guide)

In this brief article, we will be discussing regressive autism, the signs of regressive autism, how to deal with regressive autism, and more information about regressive autism.

What is regressive autism in affected children?

This kind of autism in affected children occurs when the child is showing signs of healthy development until the child starts to show signs that he or she is going back to a regressive state or something that associates with behaviours that are only done by done children who are at a younger age than the child. In this case, this is a setback in the child’s development which can baffle parents.

This kind of autism is prominent in children within the ages of 15 and 30 months.

The lack of the appropriate skills can work slowly in this kind of autism.

This kind of autism is typically followed by a stagnant period of an increased progression of the appropriate skills in the child’s age.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) issued by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) described autism as any type of this psychological disorder that has the signs of regression, including childhood disintegrative disorder which is another kind of psychological disorder.

Children with this kind of autism should be checked immediately to get treated early.

There will be the necessary therapies that will be prescribed to the affected child so that he or she can be back in his or her journey in development.

There will also be tips given to the parents since children with this kind of psychological disorder should be treated with the note in mind that they have this kind of autism to make treatment effective.

Symptoms of regressive autism in affected children

There are many studies that show that most children with this kind of autism would stop speaking when in the school years.

Some children may lose some social skills while having this kind of autism.

The following are reported symptoms of this autism in affected children:

Early Symptoms of regressive ASD in a Child

  • Prevents or doesn’t prefer eye contact to another person
  • Fails to respond when the child’s name is called and the child may initially be suspected to be deaf by most observers
  • Unable to point at objects or things of interest or failure to show interest in any activity
  • Generally wants to be alone for most of the time
  • Fails to comprehend or recognize other people’s feelings and their own feelings as well
  • Experiences echolalia or the tendency to repeat words and phrases stated by other people over and over again almost all the time
  • Tends to provide unrelated answers to questions asked to these affected children
  • Obsessive interests
  • Loves to flap hands, spin in circles, and rock the body as most affected children have exhibited
  • Gets upset by minor changes in daily activities as most affected children have been observed to display
  • Displays low to zero social skills with other children
  • Displays typical responses such as over- or under-sensitivity to the sound, smell, taste, look, and feel of different objects in the child’s surroundings
  • Tends to reverse the use of pronouns and use you instead of I in most conversations with these children
  • Disgusted with or prevents physical contact from other children or other adults
  • Displays little attention to safety and is greatly unaware of the danger that might be appearing in one’s surroundings

Other Symptoms and Signs of This Form of Autism

The child may also display the following symptoms and signs of this autism:

  • Impulsivity or acting without thinking in most situations
  • Excessive anxiety and phobias and atypical phobias in most stimuli
  • Displays atypical interests and behaviours most of the time
  • Loves to play with toys the same way each time as most reports have stated
  • Displays very active or hyperactive behaviour in most situations
  • Displays atypical eating and sleeping habits such as sleep regression in most affected children
  • Displays strange moods or emotional responses in most affected children
  • Displays a lack of fear or more fear than anticipated from the present stimuli
  • Loves to line up toys or other objects in his or her environment
  • Displays a preference for specific parts of objects like the wheels of toy cars in most affected children

Diagnostic tools for children with regressive autism

Fortunately, there are many tools that can be used to diagnose children with this kind of autism.

Many specialists will be responsible for determining if the child truly has this kind of autism.

This can include having a multidisciplinary team which consists of the psychologist, speech pathologist, paediatrician, and a child specialist.

This kind of team can reach an accurate diagnosis of the child with this kind of autism.

This kind of diagnosis can lead to the best kind of psychological intervention for the affected child.

There are also several procedures involved when the child is going through this assessment. 

This can lead to specialists observing the affected child on how he or she deals with other children and asking the parents on the child’s behaviour at home and at school.

The affected child will also be evaluated for his or her physical and mental strengths such as kicking and thinking.

Screening Tools for Assessing Possible Regressive ASD in Children

If you are a parent or a carer for a child with this autism, you need to consider this tool in assessing this autism in affected children:

Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised with Follow-up (M-CHAT-R/F) for affected children

This test is a parent-support screening test used to evaluate the behaviours of affected children if it is in line with this autism.

This test is used for affected children in the ages of 16 to 30 months of age effectively. 

This test will identify if the child needs to be further assessed for the suspicion of this autism in the child where there will be more tools that will be used to evaluate the child.

This test is highly prescribed to these affected children by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for screening children for possible ASD or other forms of this psychological disorder. 

As mentioned before, this test is administered through two stages. The following are these stages of this test:

  • Developmental Screening

This is a short test used to identify if the affected child is learning the fundamental skills needed in his or her age of development.

This is where the physician will be asking the parents about their child’s behaviours and if there are developmental delays that are present such as being unable to speak clearly or walk properly.

This short test is suitable for children who are in the ages of 9-months old, 18-months old, and 24- or 30-months old.

  • Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation for affected children

This final test is a more comprehensive assessment of the child’s presenting symptoms of this autism.

There might be tests where the child is evaluated for his hearing, comprehension, genetic testing, and more.

This test can make sure that the child truly has this condition or not.

There might even be a referral to a child specialist if the child needs further assessment by the right professional.

Other psychological tests and screening tools for the diagnosis of this form of ASD

If you might think that your child might have this form of autism, you need to go to a child specialist or psychologist immediately to verify your suspicions.

This can help your child get early intervention if he or she is found to have this form of autism.

The following are psychological tools that these mental health professionals will administer to your child:

  • Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI-R) for affected children
  • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS) for affected children
  • Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) for affected children
  • Childhood Autism Rating Scales, Second Edition (CARS-2) for affected children
  • Autism Behavior Checklist (ABC) for affected children
  • Psycho-Educational Profile – Third Edition (PEP-3) for affected children
  • Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) for assessing suspected children
  • Developmental Behavior Checklist (DBC) to assess behaviours that are in line to the child’s development

How to treat regressive autism in affected children?

Psychologists and child specialists have suggested that educational and behavioural therapies will be the ones treating this kind of autism in affected children.

These kinds of therapies will be used as well by parents and caregivers once trained and they can work with their affected children themselves.

The following are these psychological interventions used to treat children with this kind of autism:

  • Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) for children with this form of autism

This is where the therapist will be working with the affected children in a face-to-face format for 20 to 40 hours per week.

These sessions may begin with the child learning some structured drills such as pointing to an object that the therapist is looking for. 

This is then followed by the child learning some basic skills that are appropriate for his or her age.

This kind of behavioural intervention is very effective in its usage amongst children with this kind of autism.

The American Medical Association and the US Surgeon General have also suggested this kind of behavioural intervention to children with other forms of autism.

  • Speech Therapy

Since children with this kind of autism will be having complications with speaking, it is only appropriate for them to undergo speech therapy.

This kind of therapy will be teaching the child sign language and a picture exchange communication system (PECS) which is also recommended as a tool in building speech in children with this kind of autism.

  • Sensory Integration

Most children with this form of autism are more likely to have sensory complications that might make them dysfunctional in life.

This is why there is a need for this kind of intervention where the child will be learning how to feel with his or her five senses.

  • Auditory Intervention

This kind of therapy will help these affected children learn how to comprehend their hearing skills and make them less sensitive since they are already very sensitive to sound.

There are different kinds of interventions used under this umbrella group of interventions such as Berard Auditory Integration Training (AIT), the Tomatis approach, the Samonas Sound Therapy, and The Listening Program.

  • Vision Training and Irlen Lenses for children with this autism

This kind of intervention is used to help these children with this kind of autism to have better eye movements and tracking processes.

This can be done by using lighting and other devices that will help the child track objects easily and not be befuddled by other objects that he or she might get distracted on.

  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) for children with this autism

This kind of intervention is where the parents and carers can participate in to support the affected child.

Experts have stated that this kind of intervention can be used to enhance the child’s dynamic intelligence which is useful in social relationships. 

This kind of intervention can help the child be more interested in being with relationships and deal with the processes of relationships effectively and not get frustrated by the behaviours of other children easily.

According to Doctor Gutstein, the improvement of the relationship between parents and affected children with this kind of autism can increase the connectivity of one’s brain since relationships are ways of learning as well.

  • Steroid Therapy or Medications

This kind of therapy is one of the most effective treatments for children with this kind of autism.

This is because it can help minimize muscle dystrophy which may manifest when the child is too active in this case.

This can also help children be more likely to communicate with parents and caregivers so that they will be more likely to address their needs and communicate their needs to loved ones.

There are a lot of these medications and some antidepressant medications can qualify in this kind of group as well.


In this brief article, we have discussed regressive autism, the signs of regressive autism, how to deal with regressive autism, and more information about regressive autism.

If you have any questions about regressive autism, please let us know and the team will gladly answer your queries.

FAQs: regressive autism

What causes regression in autism?

Regression in autism is caused by something that hasn’t been found in studies yet.

Although there are potential influences such as epilepsy, early childhood immunizations, and epileptiform EEGs.

There are still minimal causal and correlational relationships when it comes to this kind of trait in this kind of psychological disorder.

What causes regression in child development?

Regression in child development is caused by stress, frustration or a traumatic event.

Children would have behaviours that are associated with this kind of coping mechanism so that they can communicate their present distress.

When you are able to correct the unmet needs of the child that caused this kind of behaviour, the child will minimize the occurrence of this behaviour. 

What age does regressive autism start?

Regressive autism starts at 15 to 30 months.

This kind of autism only occurs to children who are developing like most children do but then begins to have a lack of speech and social skills which can lead them to be diagnosed with this kind of psychological disorder.

How long does autism regression last?

Autism regression lasts until the 3rd year of life.

The average occurrence of this autism in children is around 20 months.

Also, this data might be inconclusive due to a lack of reporting from parents who might not deal with the problem when it first started such as in the 2nd year of the child’s life. 

What age does autism start?

Autism starts at 12 months or 18 months.

The behavioural symptoms of this psychological disorder typically appear early in development.

You can notice when your child have this kind of psychological disorder when you observe that he or she doesn’t maintain eye contact or is socially uninterested. 


Autism Parenting Magazine. Regressive Autism – Why It Occurs.

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