Objectives: This study examined regression in young children enrolled in the Autism Phenome Project, including developmental histories and current cognitive and adaptive status.
Methods: Children with ASD (N=69) and typical development (TD; N=37) from 2-6 years of age were recruited from two sites. The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised and Early Development Questionnaire provided early developmental histories. Cognitive measures (Mullen or DAS) and adaptive behavior (VABS) assessed current functioning.
Results: In the ASD group, 35 children had no reported regression (AUT-NR), while 34 children had reported developmental regression (AUT-R): 9 with loss of social communication skills (mean age of loss 18.1 months), and 25 with loss of social communication plus at least 3 spontaneous words (mean age of loss 18.9 months). Findings indicated no difference in age of first concern between AUT-NR and AUR-R groups (approximately 16 months for both groups). Preliminary data on a subset of children suggest that prior to regression, AUT-R showed significantly higher social and communication skills compared to AUT-NR, but lower skills compared to TD. In language, AUT-NR used first words significantly later (22 months) than AUT-R and TD groups (13 and 11 months, respectively). AUT-R and AUT-NR groups used phrases significantly later than TD. Levels of current functioning for ASD groups at a mean age of approximately 4 years revealed no significant differences in cognitive or adaptive functioning. However, differences in language were reported, with 23.5% of the ASD-R group currently using phrase speech daily, compared to 45.7% of the ASD-NR group.
Conclusions: This study contributes to understanding the ontogeny of social and communication skills in children with ASD with and without regression, and how early development and loss may affect later development of language.