Objectives: This study investigates the following questions: a) how do adaptive behaviors change in one year among young children with ASD? b) What are the relationships among initial mental age, calibrated autism severity score, and the magnitude of changes in adaptive behavioral skills?
Methods: Participants are 100 children on the autism spectrum who are participating in a longitudinal study on ASD. At Year 1 visit, participants (Mean Chronological Age = 31 months, SD = 4.37), received a battery of assessments, including the ADOS, ADI-R, Vineland-II (parent/ caregiver interview), and Bayley-III Cognitive Scale. Approximately one year later, ADOS, developmental testing, and the Vineland-II were re-administered.
Multivariate repeated measure analysis was used to examine the within-subject changes on the domains of the Vineland-II for children with and without delays on initial Bayley-III Cognitive Scale (n = 46 and 50, respectively). Cognitive delay was defined as Bayley age equivalent / chronological age < .75. Partial correlation coefficients were used to examine the relationship among initial nonverbal ability, calibrated ADOS severity score (Gotham, Pickles, & Lord, 2009), and the magnitude of adaptive skill changes in the entire sample.
Results: Significant between-group and interaction effects (Group x Year) were found with both standard scores and age equivalents (α =.05). Using domain standard scores, within-subject difference was found on Communication only (F (1, 94) = 9.59, p = .003). Using age equivalent scores, significant within-subject differences were found on Communication, Daily Living, and Socialization (ps = .000) and Year 2 scores > Year 1 scores. Simple correlations were significant among all variables at α = .01. When Year 1 Bayley age equivalent was partialled out, the magnitude of changes from Year 1 to Year 2 on the Vineland domains were not significantly correlated with the calibrated ADOS severity score.
Conclusions: Young children on the autism spectrum make gains in communication, daily living, and socialization skills, as reflected by the increases of the age equivalent scores. The rate of domain age equivalent score change is different for children with and without initial cognitive delay. When Year 1 cognitive scores are statistically controlled, the level of autism features is not significantly related to gains in adaptive skills.