Self Reports of ASD Symptomatology, Cognitive Failures, & Quality of Life in Adults (19-79 years) with ASD: A Cross Sectional Study

Thursday, May 15, 2014: 11:18 AM
Imperial B (Marriott Marquis Atlanta)
H. M. Geurts1,2 and A. G. Lever3, (1)Dutch Autism & ADHD Research Center, Brain & Cognition, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands, (2)Dr. Leo Kannerhuis (autism clinic), Amsterdam, Netherlands, (3)Dutch Autism & ADHD research center, Brain & Cognition, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Background:  There are only a handful of studies focusing on aging in ASD, but findings from studies including people with ASD in young and late adulthood suggest that, for example, some ASD symptoms abate while others remain stable or even increase. Moreover, with healthy aging we know that cognitive processes, but sometimes also quality of life (QoL) declines. Whether this is also the case for people with ASD is unknown.

Objectives:  To determine by means of self-report questionnaires the relationship between age and ASD symptomatology, cognitive failures, and QoL in adults and the elderly with ASD.

Methods:  People aged 19 to 79 years (IQ>80) with a clinical diagnosis of ASD and controls without an ASD diagnosis filled out a series of self report measures. We administrated the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ; N ASD=233; N Controls=125) to measure ASD symptomatology, the quality of life questionnaire from the world health organization (abbreviated WHOQOL; N ASD=230; N Controls=124) to determine the experienced QoL, and the cognitive failure questionnaire (CFQ; N ASD=111; N Controls=91) to explore whether people with ASD experience more cognitive daily life challenges than people without ASD. We ran regression analyses to explore the role of age.

Results:  Group comparisons revealed that adults and elderly with ASD experience lower QoL and more cognitive failures as compared to controls. Regression analyses showed that in addition to the group effect neither age (linear or quadratic) nor the interaction of age with group did explain extra variance. While there were marginally significant interactions between age and group for most questionnaire scores, this was only significant (p<.001) for the QoL physical health scale. Separate exploratory analysis for the two groups revealed that with increasing age people with ASD report an increase on the physical health QoL scale (i.e., improvement), while in the control group there seem to be no relationship between age and this QoL scale score. In both groups an increase in the environment QoL scale score with increasing age was observed. These results are preliminary as data collection will be finished in April 2014. As the data are a part of an ongoing project (funded by NWO-MagW) in which we also directly test comorbidity and cognition, we will directly test whether the experienced cognitive failures will relate to actual cognitive performance.

Conclusions: In the current study we did not find evidence for the idea that ASD symptoms decrease with increasing age. Moreover, even though people with ASD experience more cognitive difficulties as compared to controls, this was not differentially related to age. Age does seem to have a different effect on experienced QoL in people with ASD and controls and, according to people with ASD themselves, QoL is relatively low. Hence, it is of importance that there is sufficient professional and societal support for elderly people with ASD.