Measures of success

20 Jan

Measures of Success for Adults with Autism

Excerpts from an article in, November 17, 2015, by Catherine Lord, formerly professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medicine and founding director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Currently she is Distinguished Professor in Residence at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In a study published in Autism, Dr. Catherine Lord and colleagues tracked scores on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale for 179 people with autism as they aged from 2 to 21 years. The Vineland is a caregiver interview that measures a person’s ability to function day to day. The researchers wanted to see what other factors predicted scores on the Vineland. The study objective was to find better ways to assess the quality of life of young adults on the spectrum.

1. Some aptitudes — such as language comprehension and nonverbal cognition —are associated with good daily living skills and independence in adults with autism, just as they are in people without autism.

2. Young adults who have more limited cognitive abilities use fewer daily living skills at age 21 than they did at 18. Two types of skills, in particular, seem to decrease: personal skills, such as taking a shower, and community skills, such as crossing a street or showing a sense of privacy. The researchers speculated that rather than having experienced a decline in ability to perform those behaviors, these young adults had encountered fewer opportunities and motivation to use those skills causing those skills to appear to decline.

3. The opportunities available to teenagers and young adults more generally (non-autistic young adults), such as college courses, internships, extracurricular activities and sports, may not be accessible, appropriate or appealing to those on the spectrum.

4. The significant influence of early intervention was noted. Adults with autism whose caregivers or parents sought out and participated in early interventions have stronger adaptive skills than those whose parents weren’t as involved. In the study sample, a caregiver’s level of involvement in this way had a stronger effect than which therapy they sought or even the total number of hours of treatment during the preschool years.

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