More independent work environments may reduce symptoms of autism spectrum disorder and improve daily quality of life for adults with the condition. This is according to a study recently published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
The condition can often be accompanied by learning difficulties, and some individuals with the disorder can experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells, touch, light or colors.
Onset of ASD usually occurs before the age of 3. Although symptoms of the disorder last throughout a person's life, they can improve over time.
According to the study researchers, led by Julie Lounds Taylor, assistant professor of pediatrics and special education at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, adults with autism find it hard to get into employment.
Researchers say more independent work environments may improve symptoms and daily living for adults with autism.
They note that around 50% of adults with autism have very limited daily contact with other people, and those who are in employment tend to work in environments where they are isolated from other people.
But the research team's findings suggest that more independent working environments could benefit adults with autism.
For their study, which was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the investigators analyzed 153 adults of an average age of 30 years who had autism.
Data from the individuals was collected at two different time points, with a 5.5-year separation.
For each adult, the team assessed symptoms and behaviors associated with autism, such as restricted interests, repetitive behaviors, communication impairments and difficulties with social interactions.
Vocational independence 'improved autism symptoms'
The investigators found that during the study period, adults who had greater vocational independence and engagement demonstrated improvements in their autism symptoms and associated behaviors, and they had a better ability to take care of themselves.
Commenting on the findings, Taylor says:
"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."
Taylor says that their findings also emphasize the importance of employment programs for adults who have autism, and she says that more interventions are needed to offer these programs to this population.
"The majority of research on autism has focused on early childhood, but autism is a lifelong disorder with impairments that limit quality of life throughout adulthood," she adds.
"Given the prevalence of autism, now one in 88 children, we must continue to examine the factors that promote wellbeing and quality of life for adults with autism and other disabilities as a whole."
In other news related to autism, Medical News Today recently reported on a study detailing a new technique that may improve the mental wellbeing of children with autism.
The method involves children imagining small characters in their heads that can help them with their thoughts. The researchers say the method aims to build "social and emotional resilience."