Profiles and Predictors of Academic and Social School Functioning among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Anat Zaidman-Zait, Pat Mirenda, Peter Szatmari, Eric Duku, Isabel M. Smith, Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, Tracy Vaillancourt, Connor Kerns, Joanne Volden, Charlotte Waddell, Teresa Bennett, Stelios Georgiades, Wendy J. Ungar, Mayada Elsabbagh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The purpose of the study was to identify profiles and predictors of academic and social functioning in a sample of school-age children with autism spectrum disorder. Method: The study included 178 children (88% boys, 75% Caucasian, ages 10–11) who completed a standardized measure of academic skills and whose teachers completed a related measure. Measures of both academic and social performance were used to construct profiles of school functioning. Measures of language, nonverbal IQ, autism symptom severity, behavior difficulties, and early social-communication skills between ages 3 and 4 were used to examine predictors of profile membership. Latent Profile Analysis was used to identify and describe profiles of children’s academic and social school functioning. Profile membership was then regressed on each of the predictors using a series of multinomial logistic regression models. Finally, a multivariate model that included all significant predictors was built to examine the best fitting constellation of profile predictors. Results: Four profiles–reflecting variation in academic achievement, school engagement, socialization skills, pragmatic language use, and social relationships–captured the diverse school functioning outcomes of the sample. Profile membership was predicted by variation in imitation, responding to joint attention, language ability, nonverbal IQ and behavior difficulties between ages 3 and 4 years. However, in a multivariate model, only language and behavior difficulties emerged as significant predictors. Conclusions: A person-centered approach to targeted early intervention that reduces behavior difficulties and enhances social-communication and language abilities may prove especially important for the promotion of later academic and social functioning at school.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)656-668
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021


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