Autistic adults in Japan stay active in their communities, households

spectrumnews.org -- May 05
Most autistic children in Japan grow up to live somewhat independently as adults, engage in community activities and form friendships, according to a new longitudinal study.

People with autism are “leading fulfilling lives in the community and at home, although complete independence is difficult to achieve,” says lead investigator Mitsuaki Iwasa, a developmental psychiatrist at the Yokohama Rehabilitation Center in Japan. “This is encouraging not only for the people with autism themselves, but also for their support network.”

Most previous studies that tracked autistic people over time reported poor outcomes in adulthood, including difficulty securing a job and finding a partner. But those studies recruited participants primarily from clinics and so included disproportionately more people who require high support.

The new study followed 170 autistic people living in Yokohama from about age 3 to their mid-20s, interviewing them and analyzing their medical records over time. The team also asked the adult participants to keep a diary for two days, recording their activities at 15-minute intervals. The researchers assessed participants’ community involvement, comparing the data with those from a group of similarly aged non-autistic adults.

“This [approach] enabled us to investigate the psychosocial outcomes from the perspective of social participation and daily life, which had not been assessed in the previous long-term follow-up studies,” Iwasa says.

About 70 percent of the autistic adults achieved what the researchers deemed satisfactory outcomes, having a degree of autonomy and a functional social life. Almost 14 percent of that group had “very good” outcomes, according to the team, 25 percent had “good” outcomes and 31 percent had “fair” outcomes. The work was published in April in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.