Does Autism Get Worse With Age?




Of the questions surrounding autism spectrum disorder, one of the most common is whether or not autism gets better or worse with age.

Autism tends to manifest at an early age. What’s more, autism isn’t a disorder that necessarily gets worse; however, symptoms can change over time, depending on the person, their coping skills, the challenges they face in school and socially, and the treatment they’ve received along with supportive services. There is no definitive path that autism symptoms take over time.

The Drake Institute uses a unique non-drug approach to treating autism that includes qEEG brain mapping to identify brain dysregulation linked to autism symptoms. For decades, we have used advanced treatment technologies like qEEG brain mapping and neurofeedback to address brain dysregulation in order to reduce symptoms.

For more information regarding our non-drug treatment protocols, call us at 800-700-4233 or fill out the contact form.



What Is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that ranges from mild to severe and includes repetitive behaviors, impaired social communication, restricted interests and rigidity.

Autism is one of several Autism Spectrum Disorders, alongside Asperger’s Syndrome, childhood disintegration disorder, and PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified).

Because autism is primarily a disorder of the brain, although the gut can be involved, there is no external physical difference in people with the condition. Instead, symptoms are related to behavior and communication, not physical appearance.

Autism can be challenging to diagnose, especially since early signs can be missed. Parents, pediatricians, and childcare workers/teachers are often the first to notice the first symptoms. Early diagnosis is key to getting optimal interventions.

Though autism can affect anyone, boys are diagnosed at a rate of 4:1 to girls in America. It was previously thought that autism affected boys more often than girls, but recent studies show that gender bias in diagnosis may have more to do with that discrepancy.

There’s controversy about the causes of autism, but there are likely genetic factors and/or environmental factors, such as viral infections, medications or complications during pregnancy, or air pollutants that may affect brain development. [i]

How is Autism Diagnosed?

Autism cannot be detected by a blood test, x-ray, or other lab examination. Instead, observation is key to identifying of the presence of autism.

The first step in an autism evaluation or diagnosis involves observations from parents, teachers, and childcare workers helping to determine if the child is meeting developmental milestones, especially regarding communication, socializing, and behavior.

Your pediatrician will monitor your child’s development at checkups, but any information or observations you have made could help identify autism even earlier. The doctor will likely ask questions about your child’s development. Not meeting particular milestones, such as failing to make eye contact or engage in imaginary or pretend play could be manifestations of autism.

If autism is suspected, your pediatrician or a specialist may evaluate for criteria involved in an autism diagnosis, including:

  • Deficits in social communication and social interaction
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests, or activities
  • Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period
  • Symptoms cause impairment
  • Disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability [ii]

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Autism?

Signs and symptoms of autism generally appear by 2 years old. By 3 or 4, there is typically enough developmental information to make a diagnosis. These symptoms primarily affect how autistic children behave (stimming, hand flapping, etc.), how they interact with the world around them and how they relate to others. Significant detectable signs include: [iii]

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Doesn’t respond to name by 9 months of age
  • Lack of facial expressions (e.g., happy, sad, angry, etc.) by 9 months of age
  • Doesn’t play simple interactive games (e.g., pat-e-cake) by 12 months of age
  • Uses few or no hand gestures (e.g., doesn’t wave hello or goodbye) by 12 months of age
  • Doesn’t share interests with others (e.g., doesn’t show you their favorite toy) by 15 months of age
  • Doesn’t point to show you something interesting by 18 months of age
  • Doesn’t notice when others are hurt or upset by 24 months of age
  • Doesn’t notice other children and play with them by 36 months of age
  • Doesn’t pretend to be someone else (e.g., teacher, superhero, etc.) by 48 months of age
  • Doesn’t sing, act, or dance for you by 60 months of age

How Does Autism Change With Age?

Autism doesn’t get worse with age, but certain symptoms can become more pronounced and problematic as the child grows older and is more challenged.

Sometimes, especially as children enter adolescence, it may appear that autism is getting worse with age, but this may be attributed to the increased social challenges and mood changes teenagers are susceptible to.

Common life experiences such as facing the death of a loved one, failed romantic relationships, employment problems, etc., can exacerbate autism symptoms in adults. In these cases, autism symptoms can get worse with age, but not necessarily due to the disorder neurologically worsening.

How Does Autism Develop?

Autism can be a complex disorder to fully evaluate and treat. While there are many theories about how autism develops and presents, there is no definitive single cause of the disorder. Instead, there are two recognized categories of contributing factors. [iv]

First, genetic risk factors can be involved in the presence of ASD. Genetic mutations found in certain genes involved with brain development could be connected to autism. It is unclear whether these mutations are spontaneous or inherited.

Environmental factors may also be in play. Ingesting harmful chemicals or living in a highly polluted area could negatively impact fetal brain development and gene health. Pesticides, herbicides, toxic metal exposure, and high exposure to traffic-related pollution have been linked to autism.

Researchers continue to explore whether infections, dysbiosis, inflammation, medications or complications during pregnancy could be potential risk factors. ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, and while it may sometimes seem like autism can worsen with age, it’s more likely a change in symptom severity due to more school or social demands. [v]

How The Drake Institute Treats Autism

The Drake Institute uses specialized, advanced technologies including QEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neurostimulation to help reduce the presence and severity of symptoms related to autism, ADHD, stress, anxiety, PTSD, and other medical conditions.

The Drake Institute uses the following technologies to help patients with brain-based disorders.

Brain Mapping

Brain mapping is one of the first steps in developing the individualized treatment plan for each patient. In this stage, 19 sensors are placed around the patient’s scalp in targeted locations of the brain responsible for focus, executive functioning, memory, language, social processing, emotional regulation, and more.

The sensors measure brain activity and the results are analyzed to identify any areas or brain networks that are dysregulated linked to symptoms. Our Medical Director connects the findings on the QEEG to what is happening with the patient so that he can develop an effective and individualized treatment protocol for each patient.


After brain mapping has been completed, neurofeedback therapy is used to help patients reduce the symptoms of autism.

This treatment protocol helps improve brain dysregulation by guiding brain activity toward healthier and more functional patterns.

In some patients, biomedical abnormalities may need to be treated to maximize improvement from neurofeedback.


In some cases, we may also use neurostimulation guided by QEEG brain map findings to gently guide the brain into healthier functional patterns. We’ve found that some patients benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. Neurostimulation is particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

At the Drake Institute, we know how challenging life can be for autistic children and their family. Contact us for details on how we can help improve symptoms of disorders like autism, ADHD, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and more. Please fill out the free consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.








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dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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