Latent trajectories of adaptive behaviour in infants at high and low familial risk for autism spectrum disorder.
BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterised by persisting difficulties in everyday functioning. Adaptive behaviour is heterogeneous across individuals with ASD, and it is not clear to what extent early development of adaptive behaviour relates to ASD outcome in toddlerhood. This study aims to identify subgroups of infants based on early development of adaptive skills and investigate their association with later ASD outcome. METHODS: Adaptive behaviour was assessed on infants at high (n = 166) and low (n = 74) familial risk for ASD between 8 and 36 months using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS-II). The four domains of VABS-II were modelled in parallel using growth mixture modelling to identify distinct classes of infants based on adaptive behaviour. Then, we associated class membership with clinical outcome and ASD symptoms at 36 months and longitudinal measures of cognitive development. RESULTS: We observed three classes characterised by decreasing trajectories below age-appropriate norms (8.3%), stable trajectories around age-appropriate norms (73.8%), and increasing trajectories reaching average scores by age 2 (17.9%). Infants with declining adaptive behaviour had a higher risk (odds ratio (OR) = 4.40; confidence interval (CI) 1.90; 12.98) for ASD and higher parent-reported symptoms in the social, communication, and repetitive behaviour domains at 36 months. Furthermore, there was a discrepancy between adaptive and cognitive functioning as the class with improving adaptive skills showed stable cognitive development around average scores. CONCLUSIONS: Findings confirm the heterogeneity of trajectories of adaptive functioning in infancy, with a higher risk for ASD in toddlerhood linked to a plateau in the development of adaptive functioning after the first year of life.