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Language Regression in ASD: A 30-Year Longitudinal Study Investigating Outcomes in Adulthood

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
S. Harward1, M. Farley1, J. Viskochil2, E. Haygeman1, D. Bilder1, W. M. McMahon3 and A. E. Cook1, (1)University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, (2)Utah Autism Research Program, Salt Lake City, UT, (3)Psychiatry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Background: Several studies have compared the outcomes of children with and without language regression; however, no studies to date provide outcome data investigating the early effect of language regression on adult outcomes.

Objectives: To compare current adult functioning of individuals who were diagnosed with autism during childhood and reported to have language regression to those without reported language regression.  Current variables of interest are related to social participation, employment, and independent functioning.

Methods: Thirty-year follow-up data for 191 adults (63%) were collected from a population-based sample of 305 adults with ASD.  Data on early childhood language regression were available from childhood records for 118 out of the 191 participants (62%) in the follow-up study.  Adult variables of interest for the current study include employment status, independent functioning, and social participation.  These variables are combined into social functioning composite scores that range from “Very Poor” to “Very Good”.

Results: In terms of social functioning outcomes, 28% of those without a reported regression experienced a “Very Poor” or “Poor” outcome, 19% were rated to have a “Fair” outcome, and 11% had a “Good” or “Very Good” outcome.  Participants with language regression received the following outcome measures: 12% experienced a “Very Poor” and “Poor” outcome, 7% experienced a “Fair” outcome, and 6% a “Good” or “Very Good” outcome.  Analyses of differences in social functioning composite scores for adults with and without early childhood language regression were not significant (z=-.13, p=0.8).

Conclusions: The lack of a significant difference in social functioning composite scores suggests that early language regression does not appear to affect later adult outcomes in comparison to those without language regression.  This information is compelling, suggesting that while language regression can be devastating for a child with ASD and their family, they have potential to experience adult outcomes that are similar to those without reported language regression.

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