ObjectiveTo determine the extent to which deficits associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in toddlers with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) overlap with those in toddlers with nonsyndromic ASD (nsASD) and to examine cognitive function and epilepsy severity in toddlers with TSC and comorbid ASD. This is the endpoint analysis from a longitudinal investigation of ASD risk factors in children with TSC.
MethodsMeasures included the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), the Mullen Scales of Early Learning, and clinical epilepsy variables. A repeated-measures analysis of variance was performed with between-subjects factor of group (typically developing, TSC/no ASD, TSC/ASD, nsASD) and within-subjects factors of individual ADOS item scores in the social communication and repetitive behavior/restricted interest domains. Within the TSC group, comparisons of epilepsy characteristics and cognitive domains were performed using independent-samples t tests.
ResultsChildren with TSC/ASD demonstrated a profile of social communication impairment that had complete convergence with nsASD. Measured social communication impairments included gestures, pointing, eye contact, responsive social smile, and shared enjoyment. This convergence was observed despite the high comorbidity between ASD and cognitive impairment in TSC.
ConclusionsThis study supports the clinical diagnosis of ASD in young children with TSC and demonstrates remarkable convergence of autism symptoms between TSC/ASD and nsASD. Our results strongly suggest the need for early intervention in toddlers with TSC, with treatment strategies targeting social communication function as well as broader developmental domains, before the onset of autism symptoms.