Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 546-563

Trajectories of Autism Severity in Early Childhood

  • Courtney E. VenkerAffiliated withDepartment of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison Email author 
  • , Corey E. Ray-SubramanianAffiliated withWaisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • , Daniel M. BoltAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Psychology and Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • , Susan Ellis WeismerAffiliated withDepartment of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Abstract

Relatively little is known about trajectories of autism severity using calibrated severity scores (CSS) from the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, but characterizing these trajectories has important theoretical and clinical implications. This study examined CSS trajectories during early childhood. Participants were 129 children with autism spectrum disorder evaluated annually from ages 2½ to 5½. The four severity trajectory classes that emerged—Persistent High (n = 47), Persistent Moderate (n = 54), Worsening (n = 10), and Improving (n = 18)—were strikingly similar to those identified by Gotham et al. (Pediatrics 130(5):e1278–e1284, 2012). Children in the Persistent High trajectory class had the most severe functional skill deficits in baseline nonverbal cognition and daily living skills and in receptive and expressive language growth.

Keywords

Autism severity Growth trajectories Calibrated severity scores Functional skill trajectories