Autism is a condition some children manage to grow out of, a study has shown.
Experts studied 34 school-age children and young adults who had been diagnosed with autism early in life but now appeared to be functioning normally.
Tests confirmed that the group, aged eight to 21, no longer suffered symptoms of the developmental condition that makes it difficult to communicate and socialise.
The results, in the 'Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry', provide no estimate of the proportion of children likely to recover from autism.
But the researchers say they offer hope that, in at least some cases, the handicap of autism can be left behind.
Dr Thomas Insel, director of the US National Institute of Mental Health which supported the study, said: "Although the diagnosis of autism is not usually lost over time, the findings suggest that there is a very wide range of possible outcomes."
"For an individual child, the outcome may be knowable only with time and after some years of intervention. Subsequent reports from this study should tell us more."