Predictors of outcome among high functioning children with autism and Asperger syndrome
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BACKGROUND: The objective of this paper is to assess the extent to which measures of cognitive abilities taken in an inception cohort of young high functioning children with autism and Asperger syndrome predict outcome roughly two and six years later. METHOD: Children who received a diagnosis of autism or Asperger syndrome (AS) and who had a nonverbal IQ score in the 'non-retarded' range were included in the inception cohort. Measures of language and nonverbal skills were taken when the children were 4-6 years of age and outcome assessments were completed when the children were 6-8 and 10-13 years of age. The three outcome measures consisted of scales of adaptive behaviours in socialisation and communication and a composite measure of autistic symptoms (abnormal language, abnormal body and object use, difficulties relating to others, sensory issues and social and self-help difficulties). RESULTS: The explanatory power of the predictor variables was greater for communication and social skills than for autistic symptoms. The power of prediction was stable over time but did differ by PDD subtype. In general, the association between language skills and outcome was stronger in the autism group than in the AS group. CONCLUSIONS: These results support the emphasis of early intervention programmes on language but more work needs to be done on understanding variables that influence outcome in social skills and autistic behaviours, particularly in those with AS.
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