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Get to work: Vanderbilt study shows employment can reduce autism symptoms

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Could clocking in reduce symptoms of adult patients with autism, ultimately improving their overall quality of life?

Vanderbilt University issued a release that says yes. The press release highlights a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders that shows more independent work environments may lead to reductions in autism symptoms and improve daily living in adults with the disorder.

The study, conducted by Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, examined 153 adults with autism and found that greater vocational independence and engagement led to improvements in core features of autism, other problem behaviors and the ability to take care of oneself.

“We found that if you put the person with autism in a more independent vocational placement, this led to measurable improvements in their behaviors and daily living skills overall,” said lead author Julie Lounds Taylor, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics and Special Education and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center investigator.

Participants averaged 30 years of age and were part of a larger longitudinal study on adolescents and adults with autism. Data were collected at two time points separated by 5.5 years.

Typical autism symptoms include:

  • Restricted interests
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Communication impairments
  • Difficulties with social interactions

Ironically, underemployment is reportedly common among autistic adults with autism, with some 50 percent spending their days with little community contact. Researchers say this shows the importance of employment programs for adults with autism and emphasizes a need for more formal programs and services with this group of the autistic population.

For more information on autism and resources available to those living with autism, check out Autism Speaks, which was one of the funders of the Vanderbilt study. If you live in North Alabama and have questions about autism, visit the Autism Resource Foundation's website.

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