A review of: Baird, G., Charman, T., Pickles, A., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., Meldrum, D., Carcani-Rathwell, I., Serkana, D., Simonoff, E. (2008). Regression, Developmental Trajectory and Associated Problems in Disorders in the Autism Spectrum: The SNAP Study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI: 10.1007/s10803-008-0571-9
Although most children with autism present very early signs and symptoms and a linear developmental trajectory, a small subset of children present a trajectory characterized by normal development followed by a loss of acquired skills or a failure to use the acquired skills. This pattern has been termed autistic regression. Possible explainations for this phenomenom have varied from a genetic effect on brain restructuring and pruning during the early stages of life, to enterocolitis due to vaccinations, to epilepsy. In this study, the authors explored differences in developmental outcomes for children with and without regressive autism, and the association between regression and enterocolitis and epilepsy. This study examined a population cohort born in the UK in 1990 and 1991. Out of 56,946 children in this cohort, 218 had and ASD diagnosis by age 10. A subset of these children were evaluated via ADOS and ADI and divided into a broad autism (N=105), narrow autism (N=53), and no autism (N=97). The narrow autism group met full criteria for autism based on ICD-10. The broad autism group met clinical consensus for autism but not full ICD-10 criteria. These children were then evaluated for history of epilepsy, gastroinstestinal problems, and developmental regression. 39% of children with narrow autism had a history of regression during development. This compared to 11% of children with broad autism, and 3% of children with no autism. On average this regression occurred around the 25 month of age. There were no differences in IQ or adaptive functioning between those with or without regression. However, those with regression classified in the broad autism group had significantly more symptoms than those without regression also classified in the broad autism group. Regression was not associated with gastroinstestinal symptoms or with epilepsy.