Nav: Home

Researchers develop method for measuring quality of life for people on autism spectrum

March 23, 2020

Philadelphia, March 23, 2020 - A new study led by researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) shows that a set of simple questionnaires can help clinicians and families better evaluate the quality of life of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The newly-developed tool is designed for children, adolescents, and adults on the autism spectrum, and early findings show where clinicians can learn more about how to support the needs of autistic individuals by directly asking them these critical questions. The findings were published online this month by the journal Autism Research.

While clinical researchers often focus on measuring diagnostic criteria or behavioral impairments, autistic self-advocates, family members, and community organizations have long called for a greater emphasis on measuring specific and practical areas that, if properly addressed, could then help people on the autism spectrum achieve a better quality of life. Several methods on how to accomplish this have been proposed, but they have not necessarily addressed topics covering a person's entire lifespan or had sufficient data on women and girls.

"Individual studies have examined specific quality of life measurements for people with autism, but we believed there was an opportunity to create an approach that could measure quality of life across multiple areas, in a way that can grow throughout their lifetime as needs change," said Laura Graham Holmes, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University who led the research while she was a postdoctoral fellow at the CHOP Center for Autism Research. "We wanted to be sure this tool encompassed a variety of domains, including physical and mental health, relationships, and subjective well-being, so we could begin to understand on a more nuanced level the struggles and successes that autistic people experience throughout their lives."

The study team developed and tested an autism-specific lifespan quality of life measurement tool, using the National Institutes of Health Parent-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS®) as its foundation. The new tool is named the PROMIS Autism Battery - Lifespan (PAB-L). After reviewing each area and receiving feedback from autistic people and their families as well as autism experts, the tool was administered for autistic children ages 5-13 (reported through parent proxy), adolescents ages 14-17 (parent proxy and/or self-reported), and adults ages 18-65 (self reported) and then results were compared with the general population.

A total of 912 participants completed the tool's surveys online. The study measured feasibility, and participants reported that the survey was easy to understand, covered important topics, and may even change the way an individual or parent manages their autism support programs or clinical care based on the results.

While some individuals reported strengths, on average, people of all ages on the autism spectrum reported greater challenges and lower quality of life compared with their peers without an autism diagnosis. In particular, they reported lower life statisfaction, less social support and more social isolation, were more likely to exhibit emotional distress through symptoms like anger and anxiety, and were more likely to have sleep problems. Women and teenaged girls on the autism spectrum reported higher levels of anxiety and sleep problems than their male counterparts. As this is the first study to use this tool, more work is needed. However, these measurements give researchers an important starting point.

"This study demonstrated that assessing quality of life among patients of different ages and genders is possible, and that it's meaningful," said Judith S. Miller, PhD, a psychologist in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, a senior scientist and training director in the Center for Autism Research at CHOP and senior author of the study. "We believe that these findings provide an important foundation to answer some very important questions about how to support the quality of life for people with autism, including those who have been historically under-represented in clinical research."
-end-
Graham et al, "A lifespan approach to patient-reported outcomes and quality of life for people on the autism spectrum." Autism Res, online 10 March 2020. DOI: 10.1002/aur.2275.

About Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals, and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 564-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Related Autism Articles:

Autism risk estimated at 3 to 5% for children whose parents have a sibling with autism
Roughly 3 to 5% of children with an aunt or uncle with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can also be expected to have ASD, compared to about 1.5% of children in the general population, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Adulthood with autism
The independence that comes with growing up can be scary for any teenager, but for young adults with autism spectrum disorder and their caregivers, the transition from adolescence to adulthood can seem particularly daunting.
Brain protein mutation from child with autism causes autism-like behavioral change in mice
A de novo gene mutation that encodes a brain protein in a child with autism has been placed into the brains of mice.
Autism and theory of mind
Theory of mind, or the ability to represent other people's minds as distinct from one's own, can be difficult for people with autism.
Potential biomarker for autism
A study of young children with autism spectrum disorder published in JNeurosci reveals altered brain waves compared to typically developing children during a motor control task.
Autism often associated with multiple new mutations
Most autism cases are in families with no previous history of the disorder.
State laws requiring autism coverage by private insurers led to increases in autism care
A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that the enactment of state laws mandating coverage of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was followed by sizable increases in insurer-covered ASD care and associated spending.
Autism's gender patterns
Having one child with autism is a well-known risk factor for having another one with the same disorder, but whether and how a sibling's gender influences this risk has remained largely unknown.
Pinpointing the origins of autism
The origins of autism remain mysterious. What areas of the brain are involved, and when do the first signs appear?
Genes, ozone, and autism
Exposure to ozone in the environment puts individuals with high levels of genetic variation at an even higher risk for developing autism than would be expected just by adding the two risk factors together, a new analysis shows.
More Autism News and Autism Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.