Skip to main content

Young Adult Outcome of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Abstract

To learn about the lives of young adults with ASD, families with children born 1974–1984, diagnosed as preschoolers and followed into adolescence were contacted by mail. Of 76 eligible, 48 (63%) participated in a telephone interview. Global outcome scores were assigned based on work, friendships and independence. At mean age 24, half had good to fair outcome and 46% poor. Co-morbid conditions, obesity and medication use were common. Families noted unmet needs particularly in social areas. Multilinear regression indicated a combination of IQ and CARS score at age 11 predicted outcome. Earlier studies reported more adults with ASD who had poor to very poor outcomes, however current young people had more opportunities, and thus better results were expected.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association (1980). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, DSM-III (3rd ed.). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.

    Google Scholar 

  2. American Psychiatric Association (1987). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, DSM-IIIR (3rd ed. revised). Washington, D.C., American Psychiatric Association.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Barnard, J., Harvey, V., Potter, D., & Prior, A. (2001). Ignored or ineligible? The reality for adults with autism spectrum disorders. London: The National Autistic Society.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Billstedt, E., Gillberg, C., & Gillberg, C. (2005). Autism after adolescence: Population-based 13–22-year follow-up study of 120 individuals with autism diagnosed in childhood. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 15(3), 351–360.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Charman, T. (2002). The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders: Recent evidence and future challenges. European Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 11(6), 249–256.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Eaves, L. C., & Ho, H. (1996). Stability and change in cognitive and behavioral characteristics of autism through childhood. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 26(5), 557–569.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Eaves, L. C., Ho, H., & Eaves, D. M. (1994). Subtypes of autism by cluster analysis. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24(1), 3–22.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Ellison, D., Clark, C., & Langford, B. (2005). Where are they now? Adult functioning in autism spectrum disorders. Presented at IMFAR, Boston, May.

  9. Engstrom, I., Ekstrom, L., & Emilsson, B. (2003). Psychosocial functioning in a group of Swedish adults with Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism. Autism, 7(1), 99–110.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Fombonne, E. (2003). Epidemiological surveys of autism and other pervasive developmental disorders: An update. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33(4), 365–382.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Gerhardt, P., & Holmes, D. (1997). Employment: Options and issues for adolescents and adults with autism. In D. Cohen & F. Volkmar (Eds.), Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders (2nd ed., pp. 650–664). New York: Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Gillberg, C., & Coleman, M. (1992). The biology of the autistic syndromes (2nd ed.). London: MacKeith Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Gillberg, C., & Steffenberg, S. (1987). Outcome and prognostic factors in infantile autism and similar conditions: A population-based study of 46 cases followed through puberty. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 17, 273–287.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Goode, S., Rutter, M., & Howlin, P. (1994). A twenty year follow-up of children with autism. Paper Presented at the 13th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

  15. Gurney, J., Fritz, M., Ness, K., Sievers, P., Newschaffer, C., & Shapiro, E. (2003). Analysis of prevalence trends of autism spectrum disorder in Minnesota. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 157(7), 622–674.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Ho, H., Eaves, L.C., & Peabody, D. (1997). Nutrient intake and obesity in children with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 12(3), 187–192.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Howlin, P. (2000). Outcome in adult life for more able individuals with autism or Asperger syndrome. Autism, 4, 63–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Howlin, P., & Goode, S. (1998). Outcome in adult life for people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. In F. R. Volkmar (Ed.), Autism and pervasive developmental disorders (pp. 209–241). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Howlin, P., Goode, S., Hutton, J., & Rutter, M. (2004). Adult outcome for children with autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(2), 212.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Kanner, L. (1971). Follow-up study of eleven autistic children originally reported in 1943. Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1, 119–145.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Kobayashi, R., Murata, T., & Yashinaga, K. (1992). A follow-up study of 201 children with autism in Kyushu and Yamguchia, Janan. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 22, 395–411.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Lavrakas, P. (1993). Telephone survey methods: Sampling, selection and supervision. Applied Social Research Methods Series, Vol. 7. London: Sage Publications.

  23. Lotter, V. (1974). Factors related to outcome in autistic children. Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 4, 263–277.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Lotter, V. (1978). Follow-up studies. In M. Rutter & E. Schopler (Eds.), Autism: A reappraisal of concepts and treatment (pp. 187–99). New York: Plenum.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Nordin, V., & Gillberg, C. (1998). The long term course of autistic disorders: Update on follow-up studies. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 97, 99–108.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Rumsey, J. M., Rapoport, J. L., & Sceery, W. R. (1985). Autistic children as adults: Psychiatric, social and behavioral outcomes. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 24(4), 465–473.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Rutter, M. (1970). Autistic children: Infancy to adulthood. Seminars in Psychiatry, 2, 435–450.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Rutter, M. (1978). Diagnosis and definition. In M. Rutter & E. Schopler (Eds.), Autism: A reappraisal of concepts and treatment. New York: Plenum.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Rutter, M., Greenfield, D., & Lockyer, L. (1967). A five to fifteen year follow-up study of infantile psychosis. II. Social and behavioral outcome. British Journal of Psychiatry, 113, 1183–1199.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Rutter, M., & Lockyer, L (1967). A five to fifteen year follow-up study of infantile psychosis. I. Description of sample. British Journal of Psychiatry, 113, 1169–1182.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Statistics Canada (2005). Canadian community health survey: Obesity among children and adults. Ottawa: The Daily.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Stein, C., Ring, A., Shulman, C., Meir, D., Holan, A., Weizman, A., & Barak, Y. (2001). Brief report: Children with autism as they grow up—description of adult inpatients with severe autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31(3), 355–360.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. Szatmari, P., Bartolucci, R., Bremner, R., Bond, S., & Rich, L. (1989). A follow-up study of high functioning autistic children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 19, 213–225.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  34. Tantam, D. (1991). Asperger’s syndrome in adulthood. In U. Frith (Ed.), Autism and Asperger syndrome (pp. 47–83). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Wing, L. (1996). The autistic spectrum: A guide for parents and professionals. London: Constable Co.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Wolff, S. (2000). Schizoid personality in childhood and Asperger syndrome. In A. Klin, F. Volkmar, & S. Sparrow (Eds.), Asperger syndrome (pp. 278–305). New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgment

The authors wish to thank the families for their time and insights. We also thank Aireen Wingert and David Eaves for their contributions.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Linda C. Eaves.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Eaves, L.C., Ho, H.H. Young Adult Outcome of Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 38, 739–747 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-007-0441-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Autism outcomes
  • Young adults with autism