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Characteristics Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder Risk in Individuals with Down Syndrome

Abstract

We examined autism spectrum disorder (ASD) risk in a large national sample of 203 individuals with Down syndrome, 6–25 years old, to determine the association of ASD risk with age, sex, IQ, adaptive behaviors, and maladaptive behaviors. We used a two-pronged approach by (1) considering ASD symptomatology continuously across the sample of individuals with DS and examining associations with each characteristic, and (2) dichotomizing our sample into high and low ASD risk groups and comparing groups on each characteristic. The pattern of results was largely similar across both types of analyses. ASD symptomatology/risk was negatively associated with IQ and adaptive behaviors and positively associated with certain types of maladaptive behaviors. Clinical implications for screening and therapeutic purposes are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

Funding for the Down Syndrome Cognition Project was provided by LuMind Research Down Syndrome Foundation. We thank the many students and staff who have contributed to recruitment, data collection, and data management across project sites. We also thank Dr. Anna Esbensen at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for providing feedback on an early draft of this manuscript. We especially thank the families who have donated their time and effort to participate in this research. Preliminary data described in this manuscript were presented at the 51st Annual Gatlinburg Conference on Research and Theory in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in San Diego, CA, March 2018. MMC and LH conceived of the study and participated in its design. MMC performed the statistical analyses and interpretation of the data and had a primary role in drafting the manuscript. LH assisted with interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript. TR and DH had primary roles in the design and coordination of the study and in overseeing data collection and preparation for analysis. MF helped with data collection, assisted in interpretation of the data, and assisted in drafting of the manuscript. GC and SS participated in the study’s conception and design, assisted in data interpretation and drafting of the manuscript, and provided mentorship throughout the project. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded by a grant from the LuMind Research Down Syndrome Foundation (PI: Sherman).

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Correspondence to Marie Moore Channell.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Channell, M.M., Hahn, L.J., Rosser, T.C. et al. Characteristics Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder Risk in Individuals with Down Syndrome. J Autism Dev Disord 49, 3543–3556 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-019-04074-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-019-04074-1

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Down syndrome
  • Maladaptive behavior
  • Psychiatric comorbidities
  • Intellectual disability