Developmental Regression in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Implications for Clinical Outcomes

  • Brian D. Barger
  • Jonathan M. CampbellEmail author


This chapter reviews the prevalence, course, and clinical importance of developmental regression, or loss of previously acquired skills, for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Although the presence of regression has been thought to signal a unique ASD subtype and possibly predict poorer outcome, the clinical significance of regression has not yet been firmly established. Multiple definitions of regression are employed in the literature and five primary types may be delineated: language, social, language + social, mixed, and unspecified. Research findings are summarized that compare children with ASD who experience regression (ASD-R) and those who do not (ASD-NR) in the following areas: cognitive ability, development, epilepsy, sleep problems, gastrointestinal issues, natal issues, familial medical history, and autism symptomatology. Findings in each broad category are separated according to operational definition of regression with language and mixed regression reflecting the most frequent definitions employed in the literature. Few reliable differences have been found for cognitive ability; epilepsy; developmental milestone attainment; gastrointestinal problems; pre-, peri-, or postnatal problems; medical disorders; or disorders in family members. When compared to counterparts, individuals with ASD-R are more likely to be diagnosed with intellectual disability, experience sleep problems, develop language at a slower rate, and show greater autism symptomatology. The differences, however, are related to particular definitions of regression, such as whether regression is defined as language or more generally. Overall, the research to date should be considered preliminary, and future investigations should take greater care regarding how developmental regression is defined and measured.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Autism Spectrum Disorder Sleep Problem Intellectual Disability Operational Definition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational, School, and Counseling PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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