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Autism spectrum disorder symptom expression in individuals with 3q29 deletion syndrome.

Molecular Autism 2022 December 25
BACKGROUND: The 1.6 Mb 3q29 deletion is associated with neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric phenotypes, including a 19-fold increased risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Previous work by our team identified elevated social disability in this population via parent-report questionnaires. However, clinical features of ASD in this population have not been explored in detail.

METHODS: Thirty-one individuals with 3q29 deletion syndrome (3q29del, 61.3% male) were evaluated using two gold-standard clinical ASD evaluations: the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2), and the Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI-R). Four matched comparators for each subject were ascertained from the National Database for Autism Research. Item-level scores on the ADOS-2 and ADI-R were compared between subjects with 3q29del and matched comparators.

RESULTS: Subjects with 3q29del and no ASD (3q29del-ASD) had greater evidence of social disability compared to typically developing (TD) comparison subjects across the ADOS-2. Subjects with 3q29del and ASD (3q29del + ASD) were largely indistinguishable from non-syndromic ASD (nsASD) subjects on the ADOS-2. 3q29del + ASD performed significantly better on social communication on the ADI-R than nsASD (3q29 + ASD mean = 11.36; nsASD mean = 15.70; p = 0.01), and this was driven by reduced deficits in nonverbal communication (3q29 + ASD mean = 1.73; nsASD mean = 3.63; p = 0.03). 3q29del + ASD reported significantly later age at the first two-word phrase compared to nsASD (3q29del + ASD mean = 43.89 months; nsASD mean = 37.86 months; p = 0.01). However, speech delay was not related to improved nonverbal communication in 3q29del + ASD.

LIMITATIONS: There were not enough TD comparators with ADI-R data in NDAR to include in the present analysis. Additionally, our relatively small sample size made it difficult to assess race and ethnicity effects.

CONCLUSIONS: 3q29del is associated with significant social disability, irrespective of ASD diagnosis. 3q29del + ASD have similar levels of social disability to nsASD, while 3q29del-ASD have significantly increased social disability compared to TD individuals. However, social communication is reasonably well preserved in 3q29del + ASD relative to nsASD. It is critical that verbal ability and social disability be examined separately in this population to ensure equal access to ASD and social skills evaluations and services.

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