MADISON -- Hallmarks of autism are characteristic behaviors - repetitive motions, problems interacting with others, impaired communication abilities - that occur in widely different combinations and degrees of severity among those who have the condition.
But how those behaviors change as individuals progress through adolescence and adulthood has, until now, never been fully scientifically documented. In a new study, published in the September Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, researchers have found that symptoms can improve with age.
"On average, people are getting better," says Paul T. Shattuck, an assistant professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis who worked on the study as a graduate student and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Waisman Center and is the first author of the paper. "It is a hopeful finding, but the fact remains that those with severe autism will depend on others for their everyday needs and care for the rest of their lives."
Autism is a widespread condition in the United States, affecting an estimated one in 150 children and an unknown number of adults.
The new publication is part of a groundbreaking longitudinal study of more than 400 adolescents and adults with autism and their families led by Marsha Mailick Seltzer, a Wisconsin professor of social work and the director of the UW-Madison Waisman Center. "This project is one of the largest long-term studies of autism and it represents the collaborations of a team of researchers who together are investigating how autism changes across the life course," Seltzer explains.
Half of the study's participants are from Wisconsin and half are from Massachusetts. They were recruited from service agencies, schools and clinics. Every 18 months, parents in the study are interviewed in depth to assess changes in their child's symptoms and behaviors.
The new paper reports on how behav
|Contact: Paul T. Shattuck|
University of Wisconsin-Madison