A studyÂ published in Pediatrics this week tracks “adaptive behavior” asÂ children and adolescents with fragile X syndrome are growing up. This isÂ the largest longitudinal study to date in fragile X, which isÂ the leading inherited cause of intellectual disability and the leading single-gene risk factor for autism spectrum disorder.
Adaptive behavior covers a range of everyday social and practical skills, including communication, socialization, and completing tasks of daily living such as getting dressed. In this study, socialization emerged as a relative strength in boys with fragile X, in that it did not decline as much as the other two domains of adaptive behavior measured: communication and daily living skills.
The lead author of the paper is Cheryl Klaiman, formerly of the Stanford University Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences, now senior psychologist at Marcus Autism Center.
The “socialization as relative strength in fragile X” findings meshes with a growing awareness in the autism field, summarized nicely here by Jessica Wright at the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, thatÂ fragile X syndrome symptoms are often distinct from those in autism spectrum disorder.
One key distinction between the disorders, for example, is in social interactions. Children with autism and those with fragile X syndrome both shy away from social contact, have trouble making friends and avert their gaze when people look at them.
But children with fragile X syndrome often sneak a peek when the other person turns his back, researchers say. Children with autism, in contrast, seem mostly uninterested in social interactions.
â€œChildren with fragile X syndrome all have very severe social anxiety that plays a big role in the perception that they have autism,â€ saysÂ Stephen Warren, professor of human genetics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. â€œThey are actually interested in their environment; they are just very shy and anxious about it.â€