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Is Autism Truly a Spectrum? New Research Suggests Classification More Complex

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A new study of children and adolescents suggests classifying autism is complex and not an all-or-nothing diagnosis.

STONY BROOK, NY, February 8 , 2019 – A new Stony Brook University-led study that compared two large independent samples of children and adolescents totaling about 6,000 people with and without diagnosed autism reveals that autism may be better understood as several interrelated spectra rather than a spectrum. The study is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

According to the lead researchers – Stony Brook University Professor Matthew Lerner and graduate student Hyunsik Kim – the study findings may have vast implications with the way professionals classify autism and better understand and map the array of experiences of autistic people.

Kim explained that the results indicate autism is combined of three related domains of atypical behavior – social interaction difficulties, interpersonal communications difficulties, and repetitive or restrictive thoughts or actions. And each of these domains can range in severity from very mild to severe.

“All of this suggests autism is not best understood as an all-or-nothing diagnosis, nor a single spectrum, but rather related spectra of behavioral traits across a population.”

The research is supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

About Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University, widely regarded as a SUNY flagship, is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with nearly 26,000 students, more than 2,700 faculty members and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 40 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University is among a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University fuels Long island’s economic growth. Its impact on the Long island economy amounts to $7.38 billion in increased output. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.

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