Is Severe Autism Measured Adequately?

March 20, 2023

New Commentary Believes there’s a Better Way to Measure How the Condition Impacts Life

A new commentary featured in the journal, Autism Research, calls for a more effective way of measuring severe autism that details specifically how an individual’s autism severity level impacts their life. Autism severity is currently defined and measured based exclusively on the levels of two core symptom domains: social-communication and restrictive or repetitive patterns of behaviors and interests. However, the commentary’s authors point out that people with autism are often diagnosed with other medical, developmental, and psychological co-occurring conditions. These additional challenges may include intellectual disability, limited expressive and/or receptive language, and anxiety disorders. All of which can have a significant impact on day-to-day life. The authors also indicate that core symptoms and co-occurring conditions interact across development, influencing the other’s trajectory over time. Due to these reasons, the team believes that a multidimensional, measurable definition of autism severity could be helpful. Especially for identifying unique subgroups of individuals for clinical purposes, determining individual needs and strengths in clinical assessments, and developing intervention goals and plans that involve all the different aspects and challenges relevant to the life of a person with autism. They believe a promising avenue for measuring autism severity would be a core outcome set (COS) for autism that defines the domains of a condition most relevant to clinicians, caregivers, and individuals with autism. The authors mention that the International Consortium of Health Outcome Measurement recently developed a COS. This COS characterizes core symptoms (social communication and restrictive or repetitive behaviors), adaptive skills, family functioning, sleep, and anxiety. The set also examines other neurodevelopmental disorders and general quality of life. The authors hope that other organizations or institutions will duplicate the COS system for severe autism, enabling researchers and clinicians to comprehensively characterize the individual and select treatments and therapies that are most relevant to their basic biological needs. 


Original Commentary

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