MIND Institute Reports ASD Characteristics Can Change Significantly Between Ages 3 to 11

April 11, 2022

About 50% of Children with Autism Had a Notable Change in the Severity of Their Symptoms 

The Autism Phenome Project (APP) was started in 2006 at UC Davis’s MIND Institute by Research Director David Amaral. The project includes a collaboration of numerous MIND Institute faculty and staff. It is intended to gather biological and behavioral information on a large number of families affected by autism. Recently, MIND Institute researchers used the project’s long-term data to examine whether a child’s autism severity changed from initial diagnosis until middle childhood (ages 3-11). In total, the research evaluated symptom severity trajectories for 182 children. The study’s authors discovered that 27% of the children from the APP experienced a decrease in autism symptom severity, 24% experienced an increase in severity, and the remaining percentage remained at the same level of impairment. Additionally, the team found that symptom severity decreases were typically seen in early childhood while severity increases were more likely to be experienced during middle childhood. Most of the children in the study experienced significant change during only one period of their childhood (early or middle) and remained stable during the other. Interestingly, girls decreased more and increased less in symptom severity than boys. Further analysis from the study indicated that a decrease in severity was linked to higher parental education level and older parental age at the time of the child’s birth. On the contrary, the research also showed that an increase in autism severity was associated with lower parental education level and younger parental age at the child’s birth. Ultimately, the authors suggest their findings demonstrate that a change in severity level is more likely to happen than previously thought. The team also believes that understanding the role that biological and sociodemographic factors play in determining a child’s symptom trajectory will be important for making future decisions on the types of interventions distributed to young children on the spectrum.   


Original Article 

Original Study Abstract 

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