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Are There Subgroups within the Autistic Spectrum? A Cluster Analysis of a Group of Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders

  • Margot Prior (a1), Richard Eisenmajer (a2), Susan Leekam (a3), Lorna Wing (a4), Judith Gould (a4), Ben Ong (a2) and David Dowe (a5)...


Comprehensive data on the developmental history and current behaviours of a large sample of high-functioning individuals with diagnoses of autism, Asperger's syndrome, or other related disorder were collected via parent interviews. This provided the basis for a taxonomic analysis to search for subgroups. Most participants also completed theory of mind tasks. Three clusters or subgroups were obtained; these differed on theory of mind performance and on verbal abilities. Although subgroups were identified which bore some relationship to clinical differentiation of autistic, Asperger syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) cases, the nature of the differences between them appeared strongly related to ability variables. Examination of the kinds of behaviours that differentiated the groups suggested that a spectrum of autistic disorders on which children differ primarily in term of degrees of social and cognitive impairments could explain the findings.


Corresponding author

Requests for reprints to: Professor Margot Prior, Department of Psychology, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, 3052 Australia.



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