Measuring the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) severity over time can help create a benchmark showing improvement, stability or worsening in children with autism as they get older, according to an October 2012 report published in Pediatrics. The authors of the report studied the variable changes that toddlers to adolescents experience throughout a lifetime of autism.
Using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), verbal IQ scores and non-verbal IQ scores, researchers found that over 80 percent of the 345 patients studied remained stable throughout their growth from age 2 to age 15. About 10 percent showed that their ASD worsened over time and 7 percent showed an improvement in capabilities over time.
Age, gender, race and nonverbal IQ did not predict whether the child would improve, maintain stability or degrade. But, verbal IQ, the study showed, was a strong indicator of whether the child would be in the improving, moderate or worsening category.
The stability of the majority of the participants was surprising, according to the study, because these tests were not entirely standardized and were administered by different researchers who had no knowledge of previous data gleaned. These findings will be able to give families with autistic children “benchmarks” from where they can determine the direction they wish to take in their child’s treatment. Future studies of autism benchmarks will study other reasons for children improving, staying the same or worsening throughout their adolescence, like academic placement, peer relationships and genetic and neurobiological profiles.