Link to on-line article: Independence at Work might reduce Autism symptoms in Adults
More independent work environments may lead to reduced autism symptoms and improve daily living in adults with autism spectrum disorders, according to a new study.
Past research has focused mostly on children, the authors wrote in the introduction, even though ASD increasingly is recognized as a lifelong disorder.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied 153 adults with autism and found greater vocational independence and engagement led to improvements in core features of ASD, other problem behaviors and the ability to complete activities of daily living.
“We found that if you put the person with autism in a more independent vocational placement, this led to measurable improvements in their behaviors and daily living skills overall,” lead author Julie Lounds Taylor, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics and special education and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center investigator, said in a news release. “One core value in the disability community and at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is placing people with disabilities in the most inclusive environments possible. In addition, this study gives us evidence that increasing the level of independence in an employment or vocational setting can lead to improvements in autism symptoms and other associated behaviors.”
The findings were published in the November 2013 issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
The average age of study participants was 30.2 years, and they were part of a larger longitudinal study on adolescents and adults with ASD. Data were collected at two time points separated by 5.5 years.
The investigators looked at autism symptoms such as restricted interests, repetitive behaviors, communication impairments and difficulties with social interactions and found the degree of independence in vocational activities was uniquely related to subsequent changes in autism symptoms, other problem behaviors and activities of daily living.
The results provide preliminary evidence employment may be therapeutic in the development of adults with autism, the authors found. Similar to typically developing adults, vocational activities may serve as a mechanism for providing cognitive and social stimulations and enhance well-being and quality of life.
“Given the prevalence of autism, now one in 88 children, we must continue to examine the factors that promote well-being and quality of life for adults with autism and other disabilities as a whole,” Taylor said in the release.
Underemployment is a common phenomenon among adults with autism, the authors wrote, with about half of adults with ASD primarily spending their days with little community contact and in segregated work or activity settings. This research highlights the importance of employment programs for adults with autism and stresses the need for more intervention programming for this population, according to Taylor.
The study was supported by grants from Autism Speaks, the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Mental Health.