Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 200-210

First online:

Autism Spectrum Disorder Reclassified: A Second Look at the 1980s Utah/UCLA Autism Epidemiologic Study

  • Judith S. MillerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of UtahCenter for Autism Research, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • , Deborah BilderAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Utah Email author 
  • , Megan FarleyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Utah
  • , Hilary CoonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and the Brain Institute, University of Utah
  • , Judith Pinborough-ZimmermanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Utah
  • , William JensonAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Psychology, University of Utah
  • , Catherine E. RiceAffiliated withCenters for Disease Control and Prevention
  • , Eric FombonneAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Montreal Children’s Hospital, McGill University
  • , Carmen B. PingreeAffiliated withThe Carmen B. Pingree Center for Children with Autism
    • , Edward RitvoAffiliated withUniversity of California, Los Angeles
    • , Riva-Ariella RitvoAffiliated withYale University School of Medicine
    • , William M. McMahonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and the Brain Institute, University of Utah

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The purpose of the present study was to re-examine diagnostic data from a state-wide autism prevalence study (n = 489) conducted in the 1980s to investigate the impact of broader diagnostic criteria on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) case status. Sixty-four (59 %) of the 108 originally “Diagnosed Not Autistic” met the current ASD case definition. The average IQ estimate in the newly identified group (IQ = 35.58; SD = 23.01) was significantly lower than in the original group (IQ = 56.19 SD = 21.21; t = 5.75; p < .0001). Today’s diagnostic criteria applied to participants ascertained in the 1980s identified more cases of autism with intellectual disability. The current analysis puts this historic work into context and highlights differences in ascertainment between epidemiological studies performed decades ago and those of today.


Autism Epidemiology Prevalence Diagnostic criteria Intellectual disability