Regression in autistic spectrum disorders

Neuropsychol Rev. 2008 Dec;18(4):305-19. doi: 10.1007/s11065-008-9073-y. Epub 2008 Oct 28.


A significant proportion of children diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder experience a developmental regression characterized by a loss of previously-acquired skills. This may involve a loss of speech or social responsitivity, but often entails both. This paper critically reviews the phenomena of regression in autistic spectrum disorders, highlighting the characteristics of regression, age of onset, temporal course, and long-term outcome. Important considerations for diagnosis are discussed and multiple etiological factors currently hypothesized to underlie the phenomenon are reviewed. It is argued that regressive autistic spectrum disorders can be conceptualized on a spectrum with other regressive disorders that may share common pathophysiological features. The implications of this viewpoint are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Autistic Disorder / genetics
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Regression, Psychology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Social Behavior