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Early adolescent outcomes of institutionally deprived and non-deprived adoptees. III. Quasi-autism

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Background: 

Some young children reared in profoundly depriving institutions have been found to show autistic-like patterns, but the developmental significance of these features is unknown. Methods: 

A randomly selected, age-stratified, sample of 144 children who had experienced an institutional upbringing in Romania and who were adopted by UK families was studied at 4, 6, and 11 years, and compared with a non-institutionalised sample of 52 domestic adoptees. Twenty-eight children, all from Romanian institutions, for whom the possibility of quasi-autism had been raised, were assessed using the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) at the age of 12 years. Results: 

Sixteen children were found to have a quasi-autistic pattern; a rate of 9.2% in the Romanian institution-reared adoptees with an IQ of at least 50 as compared with 0% in the domestic adoptees. There were a further 12 children with some autistic-like features, but for whom the quasi-autism designation was not confirmed. The follow-up of the children showed that a quarter of the children lost their autistic-like features by 11. Disinhibited attachment and poor peer relationships were also present in over half of the children with quasi-autism. Conclusions: 

The findings at age 11/12 years confirmed the reality and clinical significance of the quasi-autistic patterns seen in over 1 in 10 of the children who experienced profound institutional deprivation. Although there were important similarities with ‘ordinary’ autism, the dissimilarities suggest a different meaning.
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Keywords: Institutional care; adolescence; autism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK 2: Department of Health Psychology, Hillingdon Hospital, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK 3: Bromley PCT NHS Trust, Bassetts Centre, Farnborough, Kent, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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