dren and adults with autism continued to wet their beds at night. Five adults, at an average age of 24, were still not toilet-trained. Health-related problems included constipation (13%) and severe diarrhea (13%). Behavioral issues included stuffing toilets with paper or items, continual flushing, smearing of feces, playing in toilets, and refusing to use a variety of toilets.
A substantially larger sample of children and adults with autism (1,442) was compared with people with mental retardation (24,048) in terms of their motor, daily living, social, and academic skills, using a database of the New York Developmental Disabilities Information System (Jacobson and Ackerman, 1990). Comparisons were made between age groupings of children (5–12 years of age), adolescents (13–21), and adults (21–35 years). Although the children with autism functioned at higher levels than did the children who had mental retardation without autism, these differences were no longer evident when examining the skill levels of adolescents. The advantage of children with autism was reversed in the groups of adults, with people with autism functioning at lower levels in academic and social skills although they continued to maintain an advantage in gross motor skills.
A subjective account of 25 Irish mothers of children with autism between the ages of 3 to 14 years of age presents an array of perceived difficulties in the day-to-day management of a child with autism and the consequent effects on the child’s family (O’Moore, 1978). Among the difficulties reported were parental problems in managing housework, due to the extra time needed to feed, toilet train, dress, engage, and put their children with autism to sleep. Parents often felt uncertain regarding effective behavior management techniques, and most reported the use (although not approval) of corporal punishment. Both the children with autism and the overall family had restricted levels of contact in the community, due to either the fear or reality of increased behavioral problems during community outings. Another study compared the breastfeeding patterns of children with autism with a matched group of children with more general developmental delays, and findings were that the mothers of children with autism reported no significant differences in the offering or acceptance of breastfeeding (Burd et al., 1988).
Although the range of adaptive behaviors can be defined more or less broadly, virtually all categorizations include a focus on self-care skills related to basic biological functions. In addition to issues of toileting, eating and sleep disorders are frequently reported in children with autism (Richdale and Prior, 1995). However, most research on irregularities in biological functions has been based on parental report, which can be