To explore the stability of diagnosis and the relationship between behavioural, adaptive and developmental skills in early to middle childhood in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Fifty-four children recruited to the study were diagnosed with ASD before 42 months. Outcomes at follow-up after a mean interval of 64 months were measured using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Vineland-II adaptive scale and Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children and parental survey data. Scores before school were compared with follow-up data through descriptive, correlational and multiple regression analyses.
ASD was confirmed in all children at follow-up (mean age 10 years). Fifty-eight percent of children were enrolled in a supported educational class or school and 42% were taking a psychotropic medication. Adaptive function improved significantly in 19% of children. Developmental and adaptive behavioural scores before school correlated with cognitive, behaviour and adaptive assessments at follow-up.
At follow-up, the diagnosis was confirmed in all children. The children showed gains in their adaptive skills but and many required ongoing educational and behavioural support. Early developmental and adaptive assessments reliably predicted later educational support needs, cognitive and adaptive function and are a useful component of a diagnostic assessment.

© 2020 Paediatrics and Child Health Division (The Royal Australasian College of Physicians).