In the past, the evaluation of children with autism focused on skills the child lacked (in comparison with neurotypical children). Thinking in terms of “deficits” meant that “success” was when a person did not display signs of autism anymore. Now researchers want to define success differently.
New research by psychiatrists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) suggests that emphasis should be on growth over time—”doing well” versus a “good outcome.”
The researchers consulted parents of children with autism and came up with a list of key areas to help measure if children with autism were “doing well”: communication, socialization, daily living activities, internalizing, and externalizing. The researchers chose a group of children to follow and had an adult (usually a parent) share information with researchers when the child was around three-and-half years old and again when the child was around 11.
The researchers found that around 80% of the children were “doing well” in at least one area while “20% of children were doing well in four or more of the five domains evaluated.” The researchers also looked at factors that influenced “doing well” and found that “Doing well was associated with preschool scores on that specific outcome domain, as well as early language skills, household income, and family functioning.” Overall, this research opens new opportunities to focus on “doing well” as a measure of success for children with autism.