The purpose of this study was to extend the literature on the ontogeny of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by examining early attainment and loss of specific sociocommunicative skills in children with autism (AUT; n = 125), pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS; n = 42), nonspectrum developmental delays (n = 46), and typical development (n = 31). The ages of skill attainment and loss were obtained from a caregiver interview. The findings indicated that children with AUT, PDD-NOS, and developmental delays diverged from typically developing children in attainment of sociocommunicative skills early in the first year of life. Loss of at least one skill was reported in a majority of children with AUT and PDD-NOS. Significant delays in attainment of skills were also reported in children who lost skills. The wide variation in skill attainment and loss reported across children indicates that symptom onset and regression may be best represented continuously, with at least some early delay and loss present for a great majority of children with ASD.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00271622.