Daily living skills in individuals with autism spectrum disorder from 2 to 21 years of age

Autism. 2015 Oct;19(7):774-84. doi: 10.1177/1362361315575840. Epub 2015 Apr 28.


Daily living skills (DLS), such as personal hygiene, meal preparation, and money management, are important to independent living. Research suggests that many individuals with autism spectrum disorder exhibit impairments in daily living skills relative to their cognitive skills. This study examined predictors of daily living skills attainment and trajectories of daily living skills in a longitudinal sample referred for possible autism spectrum disorder and followed from 2 to 21 years of age. Consistent with previous studies, participants with autism spectrum disorder and nonspectrum diagnoses showed continual development of daily living skills throughout childhood and adolescence. Early childhood nonverbal mental age was the strongest predictor of daily living skills attainment for both diagnostic groups. Group-based modeling suggested two distinct trajectories of daily living skills development for participants with autism spectrum disorder. Skill levels for both groups of young adults with autism spectrum disorder remained considerably below age level expectations. Whereas the "High-DLS" group gained approximately 12 years in daily living skills from T2 to T21, the "Low-DLS" group's daily living skills improved 3-4 years over the 16- to 19-year study period. Nonverbal mental age, receptive language, and social-communication impairment at 2 years predicted High- versus Low-DLS group membership. Receiving greater than 20 h of parent-implemented intervention before age 3 was also associated with daily living skills trajectory. Results suggest that daily living skills should be a focus of treatment plans for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, particularly adolescents transitioning to young adulthood.

Keywords: adaptive behavior; adults; autism spectrum disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Human Development
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Language Tests
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Young Adult