Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Marianne Barton, Michael Stevens

Field of Study



Master of Arts

Open Access

Open Access


Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) were once considered lifelong disorders, but a small body of research indicates children with ASDs are capable of gaining skills, such that they no longer meet diagnostic criteria for any ASD. These individuals are considered to have achieved an optimal outcome. This study examined communication and social functioning in a group of adolescents with a history of autism spectrum disorders who have achieved optimal outcomes. Thirty-two such individuals between the ages of eight and twenty-one were matched on age, sex, and nonverbal IQ to 33 individuals with high-functioning autism and 25 typically developing adolescents. The groups were compared on measures of autism symptomatology, adaptive functioning, and pragmatic language. Results indicated that the optimal outcome adolescents were functioning quite well in both the communication and social domains. However, some exhibited subtle residual social deficits, including restricted of a range of directed facial expressions, limited insight in social relationships, and poorer quality of rapport, as compared to the typically developing individuals. Importantly, the optimal outcome adolescents performed better than the adolescents with high-functioning autism on all areas assessed. Thus, the optimal outcome individuals were not experiencing any impairing communication or social deficits.

Major Advisor

Deborah Fein