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Understanding the causes of loss of skills in autism

Research project

Project overview

More than two per cent of Victorian children up to the age of 11 are diagnosed with autism, with 30 per cent of those said to have lost language and social skills over time. Of those who lose skills, a smaller proportion will experience substantial regression over a period of just weeks or months. Little is known about the causes of this severe and rapid loss of skills.

The MCRI’s Loss of Skills study will collect high quality information about children with autism or social and communication impairments consistent with autism who have substantial loss of skills. By focusing on children up to age seven, researchers hope to discover possible causes as well as describe clinical subtypes of loss of skills, and to be able to link the two.

Who can participate?

  • Children who live in Victoria diagnosed with autism or who have social communication impairments consistent with autism, and diagnosis is strongly suspected.
  • Experienced loss of well-established skills, such as a change from communicating using words and gestures to not talking and not communicating in other ways.
  • Aged 7 or under.

What is involved?

  • You and your child will be asked to complete activities which will help researchers learn about your child’s thinking skills, language, communication and behaviour.
  • You will be asked about your child’s past experiences and current abilities.
  • With family consent, we will collect biological specimens (saliva, blood sample) for genetic testing and future ethically-approved studies.
  • A 12-month review will be completed.

Each family will receive a descriptive summary of their child’s assessment performance.

This study is strictly recruiting children up to seven years who have experienced severe and rapid loss of skills. If your child does not meet these eligibility criteria, they unfortunately cannot be considered for inclusion in this project. You can direct autism inquiries not related to this study to

To find out more, please contact Dr Veronica Rose, e:  t: (03) 9345 6264

The project is part of the MCRI’s Pathways to Autism project that aims to understand the condition by studying groups of children with neurodevelopmental differences to identify patterns that could shed light on other types of autism.

The Loss of Skills project is also being supported by BioAutism Ltd, the Financial Markets Foundation for Children and the University of Melbourne’s William Collie Bequest.

Approved by Royal Children’s Hospital Human Research Ethics Committee: #37085