International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): A Longitudinal Investigation of Behavioral Abnormalities in Autism

A Longitudinal Investigation of Behavioral Abnormalities in Autism

Saturday, May 17, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
11:30 AM
J. M. Phillips , Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
A. Y. Hardan , Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Background: Autism is described as a chronic condition with most individuals suffering from this disorder demonstrating changes over time in the core symptom deficits and in associated behaviors. Studies suggest that many children with autism show improvements in social interaction and reduction in repetitive behaviors, but a limited number of investigations have focused on the course of emotional and behavioral trajectories.
Objectives: This investigation was conducted to examine the development of emotional and behavioral functioning in school-age children with autism and to compare them with healthy normal controls.
Methods: Research data including the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) were collected from 13 boys with autism and 14 age- and gender-matched controls at baseline and at follow-up. The mean age of participants was 10.6 ± 1.4 years at baseline with an average 28.5 months interval to follow-up. The mean Full Scale IQ in the autism group was 90.8 ± 19.2, and 112.3 ± 12.9 in the control group.
Results: As expected, children with autism demonstrated clinically significant elevations (i.e. T scores ≥ 70) in several behavioral domains including Social Problems, Thought Problems, and Attention Problems at baseline and at follow-up. In contrast, no scores were elevated in the control sample at any time. Interestingly, changes in behavioral symptoms were observed between baseline and follow-up in children with autism, with these children showing significant reduction over time in overall Social Problems (p = .03); Rule Breaking Behavior (p = .026); Aggression (p = .013); Externalizing Behaviors (p = .002); and Total Problem Behaviors (p = .04). 
Conclusions: School-age children with autism demonstrate social and behavioral deficits above those seen in their typical age-mates.  However, the above findings suggest that as these children mature, they demonstrate significant improvements in social and behavioral functioning, including reductions in social deficits and problem behaviors.