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Children with borderline intellectual functioning and autism spectrum disorder: developmental trajectories from 4 to 11 years of age

Authors Barnevik Olsson M, Holm A, Westerlund J, Lundholm Hedvall Å, Gillberg C, Fernell E

Received 5 June 2017

Accepted for publication 11 July 2017

Published 4 October 2017 Volume 2017:13 Pages 2519—2526


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder

Martina Barnevik Olsson,1,2 Anette Holm,3 Joakim Westerlund,1,4 Åsa Lundholm Hedvall,1,3 Christopher Gillberg,1 Elisabeth Fernell1

1Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, 2PRIMA Child and Adult Psychiatry, 3Department of Psychology, Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital, 4Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

Background: Studies on autism have tended to focus either on those with intellectual disability (ie, those with intellectual quotient [IQ] under 70) or on the group that is referred to as “high-functioning”, that is, those with borderline, average or above average IQ. The literature on cognition and daily functioning in autism spectrum disorder combined specifically with borderline intellectual functioning (IQ 70–84) is limited.
Methods: From a representative group of 208 preschool children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, those 50 children in the group with borderline intellectual functioning at ages 4.5–6.5 years were targeted for follow-up at a median age of 10 years. A new cognitive test was carried out in 30 children. Parents were interviewed with a semi-structured interview together with the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (n=41) and the Autism-Tics, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) and other comorbidities inventory (A-TAC) (n=36).
Results: Most children of interviewed parents presented problems within several developmental areas. According to A-TAC and the clinical interview, there were high rates of attention deficits and difficulties with regulating activity level and impulsivity. Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales composite scores showed that at school age, a majority of the children had declined since the previous assessment at ages between 4.5 and 6.5 years. Almost half the tested group had shifted in their IQ level, to below 70 or above 84.
Conclusion: None of the children assessed was without developmental/neuropsychiatric problems at school-age follow-up. The results support the need for comprehensive follow-up of educational, medical and developmental/neuropsychiatric needs, including a retesting of cognitive functions. There is also a need for continuing parent/family follow-up and support.

Keywords: AD/HD, A-TAC, autism spectrum disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, developmental disorders, Vineland

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