March 23, 2009

Study: Some autistic adults thriving

Twenty years after being assessed in an autism study, 41 people with autism in Utah had higher social outcomes and some had higher IQs, researchers said.

First author Megan A. Farley of the University of Utah Health Sciences said the researchers can't explain why the follow-up study showed the Utah group fared better overall in living independently, but it may be related to early intervention and strong social and family networks.

This is an amazing group of people who, in many cases, did a lot more than their parents were told they would ever do, Farley said in a statement. This gives a lot of hope for younger people with autism and average-range IQs.

Farley and colleagues drew the follow-up study participants from an original group of 241 Utahans with autism who took part in a University of Utah and University of California, Los Angeles, study from 1984-1988. The average age at the follow-up study was 32. Participants in the current study had an average childhood non-verbal IQ of at least 70.

The study, published in the Journal of Autism Research, found that about half of the 41 study participants were employed in full- or part-time competitive jobs. Six were living independently, including three who owned homes.

Three were married with children, and one person also was newly engaged to be married. Eleven of the participants have driver licenses and the same number had a higher IQ than when assessed 20 years earlier, the study said.