Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Early IQ Indicates Adult Outcome in Autism

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Early IQ Indicates Adult Outcome in Autism

Article excerpt

BERLIN -- Early IQ is a good prognostic indicator for adult outcome in autism. Patricia Howlin, Ph.D., said at the 16th World Congress of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions.

Autistic adults with a childhood perfor mance IQ of 70 or higher had a better long-term outcome than those with an IQ lower than 70 in one of the largest systematic follow-up studies of autism in adult life, said Dr. Howlin of St. George's Hospital, London.

Very few of the autistic adults who were part of the 20- to 25-year follow-up investigation were able to live independently, regardless of their IQ. "Most had impairments in social communication skills that severely affected their outcomes," she said.

To better understand how children with autism grow and change throughout their lives, Dr. Howlin and her colleagues evaluated the long-term outcomes of 68 adults who had been diagnosed with autism in childhood. All of the participants had a childhood nonverbal performance IQ of 50 or greater at the start of the study.

To assess participant outcomes, the investigators used the Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI), with parents or other caregivers as informants. The ADI was used to reconfirm the original autism diagnosis, to rate current language functioning, and to assess the severity of stereotypical behaviors and interests, including rituals, unusual preoccupations, and object attachments. The investigators also gathered information on education and employment, friendships and social relationships, and independent living.

Analysis of the results showed that all participants with an IQ below 70 had language problems and approximately two-thirds had either severe language problems or no speech. More than half of the participants with an IQ in the 70-99 range had moderate or severe language problems, and nearly 30% of those with an IQ over 100 had severe language problems. Abnormal language use was not related to any specific IQ level group, said Dr. Howlin.

Reading comprehension and spelling skills were impaired across all groups and worst among those with IQs below 70. Repetitive behaviors persisted into adulthood in all groups and were particularly severe in the group with IQs below 70. …

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