Rare diseases – rare outcomes: Assessing communication abilities for the developmental and epileptic encephalopathies

Anne T. Berg*, Aaron J. Kaat, Frank Zelko, Greta Wilkening

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: Developmental and epileptic encephalopathies (DEE) entail moderate to profound communication and other impairments that are poorly measured by typical clinical outcomes assessments (COA). We examined the potential of alternative approaches, specifically, the use of raw scores and COAs outside of their intended age ranges. Methods: In a cross-sectional survey, 120 parents of children with Dravet Syndrome, Lennox–Gastaut syndrome, KCNQ2-DEE, KCNB1-DEE, and SCN2A-DEE (ages 1–35 years) completed the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System-3 for ages 0–5 years, modified checklist for autism (mCHAT), communication and social behavior scales (CSBS), communication matrix (CM), and several parent-reported classifiers of communication. Adaptive Behavior Assessment System communication and social raw scores were the primary and adjunctive outcomes. Floor and ceiling effects, dispersion and convergence with related measures were assessed with appropriate parametric and nonparametric statistical techniques. Results: Median chronological age (CA) was 8.7 years (Interquartile range (IQR): 5.3–13.5). Adaptive Behavior Assessment Systemcommunication and social age equivalents were 12.5 months (IQR 7.5–28) and 16.5 months (IQR 9–31). Most raw scores corresponded to standardized scores indicating performance <3 standard deviations below the general population mean. Adaptive Behavior Assessment System raw scores demonstrated minimal floor and ceiling effects (<1–2.5%). In linear regression models, scores correlated with age under 6 years (communication, p = 0.001; social, p = 0.003) but significantly flattened out thereafter. Scores varied substantially by DEE group (both p < 0.001) and decreased with higher convulsive seizure frequency (communication, p = 0.01, social, p = 0.02). There was good convergence with mCHAT, CSBS, and CM scores (all r > 0.8). Significance: Raw scores and out-of-range COAs may provide measures that are sensitive at the very limited levels of functioning typical of profoundly impaired, older patients with DEEs. To ensure that targeted trial outcomes are responsive to meaningful change, development of these approaches will be essential to clinical trial readiness for novel therapies for rare DEEs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108586
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Clinical outcome measure
  • Clinical trial readiness
  • Communication
  • Epilepsy
  • Functional impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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