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Autism spectrum disorders in children with normal intellectual levels: associated impairments and subgroups

Journal article
Authors Harald Sturm
Elisabeth Fernell
Christopher Gillberg
Published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology
Volume 46
Issue 7
Pages 444-447
ISSN 0012-1622
Publication year 2004
Published at Institute for the Health of Women and Children, Dept of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Pages 444-447
Language en
Keywords Asperger Syndrome, Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Autistic Disorder, Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Child, Cognition, Physiology, Female, Humans, Language Disorders, Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Learning Disorders, Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Male, Motor Skills Disorders, Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Severity of Illness Index
Subject categories Child and adolescent psychiatry


In order to define potential subgroups pertaining to the spectrum of 'high-functioning' pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) the medical and psychiatric records of 101 children with PDD were reviewed. Ninety-one children had a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, nine had a PDD not otherwise specified, and one had 'high-functioning' autism. Mean age of the children (71 males, 30 females) was 9 years 8 months (age range 5 to 12 years). Apart from the core dysfunctions of the PDD, i.e. deficient social interaction, communication and repertoires, and restricted interests, 95% had attentional problems, 75% had motor difficulties, 86% had problems with regulation of activity level, and 50% had impulsiveness. About three-quarters had symptoms compatible with mild or severe attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or had deficits in attention, motor control, and perception (DAMP), indicating a considerable overlap between these disorders and high-functioning PDD in children of normal or near-normal intelligence. A combination of affective dysregulation, thought disturbance, and severely restricted social interaction, referred to as a multiple complex developmental disorder (MCDD; a condition possibly related to schizoaffective disorder), was recorded in about 8% of the children. Seventeen percent had another major medical diagnosis or medical syndrome, which highlights the importance of completing a neurological assessment of all children with PDDs.

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