Adaptive behavior, or the ability to function independently in ones’ environment, is a key phenotypic construct in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Few studies of the development of adaptive behavior during preschool to school-age are available, though existing data demonstrate that the degree of ability and impairment associated with ASD, and how it manifests over time, is heterogeneous. Growth mixture models are a statistical technique that can help parse this heterogeneity in trajectories.
Data from an accelerated longitudinal natural history study (n = 105 children with ASD) were subjected to growth mixture model analysis. Children were assessed up to four times between the ages of 3 to 7.99 years.
The best fitting model comprised two classes of trajectory on the Adaptive Behavior Composite score of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale, Second Edition-a low and decreasing trajectory (73% of the sample) and a moderate and stable class (27%).
These results partially replicate the classes observed in a previous study of a similarly characterized sample, suggesting that developmental trajectory may indeed serve as a phenotype. Further, the ability to predict which trajectory a child is likely to follow will be useful in planning for clinical trials.