Developmental trajectories in adolescents and adults with autism: the case of daily living skills

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Jun;51(6):622-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2012.03.001. Epub 2012 Apr 24.


Objective: This study aimed to investigate the longitudinal course of daily living skills in a large, community-based sample of adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) over a 10-year period.

Method: Adolescents and adults with ASD (n = 397) were drawn from an ongoing, longitudinal study of individuals with ASD and their families. A comparison group of 167 individuals with Down syndrome (DS) were drawn from a linked longitudinal study. The Waisman Activities of Daily Living Scale was administered four times over a 10-year period.

Results: We used latent growth curve modeling to examine change in daily living skills. Daily living skills improved for the individuals with ASD during adolescence and their early 20s, but plateaued during their late 20s. Having an intellectual disability was associated with lower initial levels of daily living skills and a slower change over time. Individuals with DS likewise gained daily living skills over time, but there was no significant curvature in the change.

Conclusions: Future research should explore what environmental factors and interventions may be associated with continued gains in daily living skills for adults with ASD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology*
  • Down Syndrome / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability* / psychology
  • Intellectual Disability* / rehabilitation
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Persons with Mental Disabilities / psychology
  • Persons with Mental Disabilities / rehabilitation
  • Prognosis
  • Time Factors