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How, When Child Develops Autism May Determine Outcomes
Date:4/23/2010

Those whose communication skills regressed tended to have more severe cases, study finds

FRIDAY, April 23 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism whose social and communications skills regress around age 3 tend to have more severe autism than children who show signs of the neurodevelopmental disorder at younger ages, new research finds.

Autism spectrum disorders are marked by delays or disruptions in social, language and communications skills, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. Increasingly, doctors are coming to understand that there are several subtypes of the disorder, explained senior study author Dr. Paul Law, director of the Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

In the study, researchers used data from 2,720 parents of children aged 3 to 17 years who had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Children were placed in one of three groups, depending on how and when their autism symptoms started:

  • Regressive, in which children seemed to be developing generally normally or close to normally, but then experienced a sharp decline in skills before age 3. About 44 percent of the children were in this group.
  • Plateau, or the 17 percent of children who were not delayed or only mildly delayed until about age 2, at which point they gradually or abruptly stop developing.
  • No loss/no plateau, sometimes called early onset autism, in which subtle signs of autism show up at relatively younger ages, but children don't regress or plateau. About 39 percent of the children fell into this category.

The researchers found some notable differences between the groups. In children who regressed or plateaued, parents said they first became concerned about their child's development at about 17 months, compared to about 15 months for children who did not plateau or regress.

Children who regressed said their first word at ab
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