Does the severity of autism symptoms change over time? A review of the evidence, impacts, and gaps in current knowledge

Einat Waizbard-Bartov, Meghan Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Studies evaluating change in autism symptom severity across the lifespan have yielded inconsistent results, making it difficult to assess the prevalence of meaningful change in autism symptom severity, and what characterizes it. Better understanding the ways in which autism symptoms change over time is crucial, with important implications for intervention. Synthesizing information across past studies, autism symptom severity change (especially decreases) appears common, though stability of symptoms is also frequent. Symptom severity change is characterized by variability in patterns of change between different individuals (between-person), variability in change within a person's trajectory across time (within-person), and variability in change patterns across symptom domains (i.e., social-communication, restricted/repetitive behaviors). Variability in severity change is likely impacted by differences in person-level characteristics (e.g., sex, IQ, sociodemographic factors) as well as developmental processes across time. Numerous methodological issues may impact our ability to understand how common change in symptom severity is, including varying measurement tools, analytic approaches, and change patterns between symptom domains across time. Potential implications of better understanding and characterizing symptom severity change include incorporation of severity change patterns and predictors of change into research on biomarkers, and consideration of such predictors as moderators or mediators of change in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102230
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Volume99
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Autism symptom severity
  • Symptom severity change
  • Symptom trajectories

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