Exploring Social Subtypes in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Preliminary Study.

Autism Res 2020 08 18;13(8):1335-1342. Epub 2020 Mar 18.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.

Impairments in social functioning are considered a hallmark diagnostic feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Yet, individuals diagnosed with ASD vary widely with respect to specific presentation, severity, and course across different dimensions of this complex symptom domain. The aim of this investigation was to utilize the Stanford Social Dimensions Scale (SSDS), a newly developed quantitative measure providing parental perspective on their child's social abilities, in order to explore the existence of homogeneous subgroups of ASD individuals who share unique profiles across specific dimensions of the social domain. Parents of 164 individuals with ASD (35 females, 129 males; mean = 7.54 years, SD = 3.85) completed the SSDS, the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS-2) and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Data on children's verbal and nonverbal intellectual functioning (FSIQ) were also collected. The Latent Profile Analysis was used to classify participants according to the pattern of SSDS subscale scores (Social Motivation, Social Affiliation, Expressive Social Communication, Social Recognition, and Unusual Approach). Five profiles were identified. Profiles did not differ in terms of chronological age nor gender distribution but showed distinct patterns of strengths and weaknesses across different social components rather than simply reflecting a severity gradient. Profiles were further differentiated in terms of cognitive ability, as well as ASD and internalizing symptom severity. The implications of current findings and the necessary further steps toward identifying subgroups of individuals with ASD who share particular constellation of strengths and weaknesses across key social domains as a way of informing personalized interventions are discussed. Autism Res 2020. © 2020 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY: People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) vary greatly in terms of their social abilities and social motivation. However, researchers lack measures that can fully assess different components of social functioning. This paper provides initial evidence for capturing subgroups of individuals with ASD with specific strengths and weakness across different aspects of social functioning. Autism Res 2020, 13: 1335-1342. © 2020 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/aur.2294DOI Listing
August 2020

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