A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies reporting on the overall outcome in terms of a global measure of adjustment in children with autistic disorders followed up in adolescence and adulthood.
PubMed, PsycINFO, and EMBASE were systematically searched on 3rd of August 2015. Included studies were analyzed using random-effects models estimating event rates (%) and 95% confidence intervals (95%CI).
From 4350 records identified in the search, 15 studies covering 12 unique samples and a total of N = 828 individuals with autistic disorders were included in the analyses. An estimated 19.7% (95%CI: 14.2-26.6) had a good outcome, 31.1% (95%CI: 23.2-40.4%) a fair outcome, and 47.7% (95%CI: 36.6-59.0) a poor outcome. The meta-analysis showed strong evidence for heterogeneity. The subtype of childhood autism is a significant moderating factor on the risk of having a poor outcome at follow-up, whereas age at follow-up showed statistically significant but inconsistent associations with outcome status.
The long-term outcome of almost half of all individuals with autistic disorders is poor. The subtype of autism in childhood may be a predictor for specific long-term outcomes, but in general, little is known about the pathways and predictors.