Homogeneous Subgroups of Young Children with Autism Improve Phenotypic Characterization in the Study to Explore Early Development

Abstract

The objective of this study was to identify homogenous classes of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to improve phenotypic characterization. Children were enrolled in the Study to Explore Early Development between 2 and 5 years of age. 707 children were classified with ASD after a comprehensive evaluation with strict diagnostic algorithms. Four classes of children with ASD were identified from latent class analysis: mild language delay with cognitive rigidity, mild language and motor delay with dysregulation, general developmental delay, and significant developmental delay with repetitive motor behaviors. We conclude that a four-class phenotypic model of children with ASD best describes our data and improves phenotypic characterization of young children with ASD. Implications for screening, diagnosis, and research are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the children and families who participated in this research. This publication was supported by six cooperative agreements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000180, Colorado Department of Public Health; Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000181, Kaiser Foundation Research Institute (CA); Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000182, University of Pennsylvania; Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000183, Johns Hopkins University; Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000184, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000498, Michigan State University. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Study concept (LW), study design and methods (all authors), statistical plan (WT, LT, and LW), statistical analysis (LT), statistical review and interpretation (all authors), manuscript preparation and/or review (all authors).

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Correspondence to Lisa D. Wiggins.

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Wiggins, L.D., Tian, L.H., Levy, S.E. et al. Homogeneous Subgroups of Young Children with Autism Improve Phenotypic Characterization in the Study to Explore Early Development. J Autism Dev Disord 47, 3634–3645 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3280-4

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Characterization
  • Phenotypes
  • Subgroups