Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 40, Issue 12, pp 1431-1446

First online:

Changes in the Autism Behavioral Phenotype During the Transition to Adulthood

  • Julie Lounds TaylorAffiliated withVanderbilt Kennedy CenterDepartment of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Email author 
  • , Marsha Mailick SeltzerAffiliated withWaisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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We examined whether exiting high school was associated with alterations in rates of change in autism symptoms and maladaptive behaviors. Participants were 242 youth with ASD who had recently exited the school system and were part of our larger longitudinal study; data were collected at five time points over nearly 10 years. Results indicated overall improvement of autism symptoms and internalized behaviors over the study period, but slowing rates of improvement after exit. Youth who did not have an intellectual disability evidenced the greatest slowing in improvement. Lower family income was associated with less improvement. Our findings suggest that adult day activities may not be as intellectually stimulating as educational activities in school, reflected by less phenotypic improvement after exit.


Autism spectrum disorder Transition to adulthood Maladaptive behaviors Autism symptoms