Original paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 37, Issue 9, pp 1735-1747

First online:

Change in Autism Symptoms and Maladaptive Behaviors in Adolescents and Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Paul T. ShattuckAffiliated withUniversity of Wisconsin Email author 
  • , Marsha Mailick SeltzerAffiliated withUniversity of Wisconsin
  • , Jan S. GreenbergAffiliated withUniversity of Wisconsin
  • , Gael I. OrsmondAffiliated withBoston University
  • , Daniel BoltAffiliated withUniversity of Wisconsin
  • , Sheilah KringAffiliated withUniversity of Wisconsin
  • , Julie LoundsAffiliated withUniversity of Wisconsin
  • , Catherine LordAffiliated withUniversity of Michigan

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This study examined change prospectively in autism symptoms and maladaptive behaviors during a 4.5 year period in 241 adolescents and adults with an autism spectrum disorder who were 10–52 years old (mean = 22.0) when the study began. Although many individuals’ symptoms remained stable, a greater proportion of the sample experienced declines than increases in their level of autism symptoms and maladaptive behaviors, and there were significant improvements in mean levels of symptoms. Individuals with mental retardation had more autism symptoms and maladaptive behaviors than those without mental retardation, and they improved less over time. Compared to adolescents, older sample members (31 and older) had fewer maladaptive behaviors and experienced more improvement in these behaviors over time.


Autism symptoms Maladaptive behaviors Lifespan development