Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 8, pp 2870–2878 | Cite as

Brief Report: Developmental Trajectories of Adaptive Behavior in Children and Adolescents with ASD

  • Allison T. MeyerEmail author
  • Patrick S. Powell
  • Nicole Butera
  • Mark R. Klinger
  • Laura G. Klinger
Brief Report


Research suggests that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have significant difficulties with adaptive behavior skills including daily living and functional communication skills. Few studies have examined the developmental trajectory of adaptive behavior across childhood and adolescence. The present study examined longitudinal trajectories of adaptive behavior in a community-based clinic sample of 186 individuals with ASD. The overall pattern indicated an initial increase in adaptive behavior during early childhood followed by a plateau in skills during adolescence for individuals of all IQ groups. Given the importance of adaptive behavior for employment and quality of life, this study emphasizes the importance of targeting adaptive behavior during adolescence to insure continued gains.


Adaptive behavior Autism Developmental trajectories 



This manuscript was completed with support from Foundations of Hope and Autism Speaks. The authors would like to thank all participants and the TEACCH Autism Program. Last, we would like to acknowledge the foresight of Dr. Eric Schopler and Dr. Gary Mesibov to create a database of clinical assessment records in the early days of TEACCH that allowed for this important longitudinal research.

Author Contributions

ATM and PSP conceived of the study, completed data entry, conducted preliminary analyses, and drafted the manuscript. NB completed developmental trajectory analyses with support from PSP. LK participated in the design and provided suggestions during manuscript preparation; MK participated in the design of the study, provided advice on statistical analyses and provided suggestions during manuscript preparation.


This study was funded by the Foundations of Hope and Autism Speaks (8316).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. This study was approved by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institutional Review Board for archival medical records review.

Supplementary material

10803_2018_3538_MOESM1_ESM.docx (362 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 362 KB)


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (5th edn.). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bernheimer, L. P., Keogh, B. K., & Guthrie, D. (2006). Young children with developmental delays as young adults: Predicting developmental and personal–social outcomes. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 111(4), 263–272.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Burgess, S., & Cimera, R. E. (2014). Employment outcomes of transition-aged adults with autism spectrum disorders: A state of the states report. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 119(1), 64–83.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Buuren, S., & Groothuis-Oudshoorn, K. (2011). mice: Multivariate imputation by chained equations in R. Journal of Statistical Software. Scholar
  5. Christensen, D. L., Baio, J., Braun, K. V., et al. (2016). Prevalence and Characteristics of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years—Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2012. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 65, 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Doll, E. A. (1953). The measurement of social competence: A manual for the Vineland Social Maturity Scale. Minneapolis: Educational Test Bureau, Educational Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Edwards, L. J., Muller, K. E., Wolfinger, R. D., Qaqish, B. F., & Schabenberger, O. (2008). An R2 statistic for fixed effects in the linear mixed model. Statistics in Medicine, 27(29), 6137–6157.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Gillespie-Lynch, K., Sepeta, L., Wang, Y., Marshall, S., Gomez, L., Sigman, M., & Hutman, T. (2012). Early childhood predictors of the social competence of adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(2), 161–174.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Hus Bal, V., Kim, S. H., Cheong, D., & Lord, C. (2015). Daily living skills in individuals with autism spectrum disorder from 2 to 21 years of age. Autism, 19(7), 774–784.CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Keogh, B. K., Bernheimer, L. P., & Guthrie, D. (2004). Children with developmental delays twenty years later: Where are they? How are they? American Journal on Mental Retardation, 109(3), 219–230.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Kraper, C. K., Kenworthy, L., Popal, H., Martin, A., & Wallace, G. L. (2017). The gap between adaptive behavior and intelligence in autism persists into young adulthood and is linked to psychiatric co-morbidities. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(10), 3007–3017.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Leiter, R. G., & Arthur, G. (1940). The Leiter international performance scale. Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara State College Press.Google Scholar
  13. Mullen, E. M. (1995). Mullen scales of early learning (pp. 58–64). Circle Pines, MN: AGS.Google Scholar
  14. Pugliese, C. E., Anthony, L., Strang, J. F., Dudley, K., Wallace, G. L., & Kenworthy, L. (2015). Increasing adaptive behavior skill deficits from childhood to adolescence in autism spectrum disorder: Role of executive function. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(6), 1579–1587.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Rodrigue, J. R., Morgan, S. B., & Geffken, G. R. (1991). A comparative evaluation of adaptive behavior in children and adolescents with autism, down syndrome, and normal development. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 21(2), 187–196.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Rubin, D. B. (1987). The calculation of posterior distributions by data augmentation: Comment: A noniterative sampling/importance resampling alternative to the data augmentation algorithm for creating a few imputations when fractions of missing information are modest: The SIR algorithm. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 82(398), 543–546.Google Scholar
  17. Sattler, J. M. (2008). Assessment of children: Cognitive foundations. San Diego, CA: JM Sattler.Google Scholar
  18. Schopler, E., Reichler, R. J., & Renner, B. R. (1988). Child autism rating scale. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services Corporation.Google Scholar
  19. Shattuck, P. T., Narendorf, S. C., Cooper, B., Sterzing, P. R., Wagner, M., & Taylor, J. L. (2012). Postsecondary education and employment among youth with an autism spectrum disorder. Pediatrics, 129, 1042–1049.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. Smith, L. E., Maenner, M. J., & Seltzer, M. M. (2012). Developmental trajectories in adolescents and adults with autism: The case of daily living skills. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(6), 622–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sparrow, S. S., Balla, D. A., Cicchetti, D. V., Harrison, P. L., & Doll, E. A. (1984). Vineland adaptive behavior scales. Circle Pines: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  22. Stutsman, R. (1931). Merrill-Palmer scale of mental tests. Wood Dale, IL: Stoelting Company.Google Scholar
  23. Taylor, J. L., & Seltzer, M. M. (2011). Employment and post-secondary educational activities for young adults with autism spectrum disorders during the transition to adulthood. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(5), 566–574.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allison T. Meyer
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Patrick S. Powell
    • 2
  • Nicole Butera
    • 3
  • Mark R. Klinger
    • 4
  • Laura G. Klinger
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of North Carolina – Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.School of PsychologyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiostatisticsUniversity of North Carolina – Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Department of Allied Health SciencesUniversity of North Carolina – Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.TEACCH Autism Program, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of North Carolina – Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  6. 6.JFK PartnersUniversity of Colorado School of MedicineAuroraUSA

Personalised recommendations