Six Developmental Trajectories Characterize Children with Autism


Autism is widely considered a heterogeneous disorder in terms of etiology and phenotype. Although autism is usually a lifelong disorder, little is know about the rate or timing of how children develop regarding their communication and social functioning. Using annual evaluations for a large population of children with autism, we describe the six most common developmental trajectories from diagnosis through age 14. These trajectories display significant heterogeneity in developmental pathways, and children whose symptoms were least severe at first diagnosis tend to improve more rapidly than those severely impacted. One group of about 10% of children experienced rapid gains, moving from severely affected to high functioning. Socioeconomic factors were correlated with trajectory outcomes. Understanding the mechanisms behind these correlations and what drives the diverse developmental pathways of children with autism is a critical avenue for further research. 

Read our paper: Fountain, C., Winter, A.S., & Bearman, P.S. (2012) Six Developmental Trajectories Characterize Children with Autism. Pediatrics. Volume 129, Number 5: e1112-e1120.

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