Developmental changes in cognitive and behavioural functioning of adolescents with fragile-X syndrome.


Background: Individuals with fragile-X syndrome exhibit developmental delay, hyperexcitation and social anxiety; they also show lack of attention and hyperactivity. Few studies have investigated whether levels of functioning change with increasing age. Here, we explored developmental changes across adolescence in the cognitive and behavioural profile of individuals with fragile-X syndrome. To this scope, we assessed intellectual functioning, adaptive behaviour, autistic symptomatology, behavioural problems (e.g. hyperactivity/lack of attention) and strengths (prosocial behaviours). Method: Thirty-six participants underwent standardised outcome measures (i.e. the Wechsler Intelligence Scales-Revised, the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, and the Strengths and Difficulty Questionnaire) in three time points (Time 1: 9-11; Time 2: 11-13, and Time 3: 13-15 years). Results: Verbal IQ improved across time, whereas Nonverbal IQ declined and Full Scale IQ was quite unchanged. Autism ratings decreased; communication and social aspects of adaptive behaviour also enhanced. Finally, elevated levels of hyperactivity/lack of attention at Time 1 significantly improved across the three time points, whereas emotional symptoms, behavioural difficulties, problems with peers and prosocial behaviours remained stable over time. Conclusion: These findings revealed specific developmental changes in cognitive and behavioural functioning of individuals with fragile-X syndrome, likely related to a progressive maturation of brain systems devoted to attentional control.