Researchers home in on better treatment options for adults with autism

January 7th, 2019

Jan. 2 (UPI) — While researchers say the key social cognitive theories of treating autism hold true for adults, a new study suggests a more broad approach could help adults more.

While people with autism have IQ scores that mirror those in the general societyWhile people with autism have IQ scores that mirror those in the general society, most show cognitive deficiencies in four key areas: emotion perception and knowledge, processing speed, theory of mind, and verbal learning and memory.

Treatment, however, has long been focused on children. Now, data from this discovery, published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry, could provide a novel roadmap for how to better treat autism in adults, researchers say.

“Our findings have important implications for cognitive interventions in adults with autism. Current interventions for these individuals are primarily focused on improving individual adaptive social skills and social functioning,” Tjasa Velikonja, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Seaver Autism Center and study first author, said in a news release.

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People with autism usually lack social communication and interaction skills. They also tend to display limited and repetitive behavior patterns, interests or activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental says one and 59 kids have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Although autism research has spanned various age groups, the bulk of studies and therapies in the field have centered around children, leaving thin and insufficient sample sizes of research surrounding adults with the condition.

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That’s why researchers from the Seaver Autism Center at Mount Sinai in New York sought to find more information about treatment options for adults with autism. They combed through performed a review and examination from the PubMed, PsychINFO, EMBASE, and MEDLINE databases, between 1980 and 2018, of all articles related to autism.

In all, they pulled together 75 peer-reviewed studies to compare the severity of cognitive impairment between 3,361 samples of people with autism and 5,344 without it.

“While our results support the key social cognitive theories of autism treatments, they also highlight the importance of a broader approach when studying cognition and support interventions that also include non-social cognitive domains,” Velikonja said.

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