From Autism and Aging Articles to Knowledge Implementation: The Development of 'Older & Wiser' Psychoeducation for 55+ Autistic Adults

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 2, 2019: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
H. M. Geurts, B. F. van Heijst and E. Groenendijk, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Background: Autistic adults diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood are now approaching old age, but also older adults (55+) do receive an autism diagnosis. After a diagnosis psycho-education is the first (obliged) step in providing care, but existing psyco-education programs do not target older individuals.

Objectives: This study had two objectives. First to develop a psycho-education program for 55+ autistic adults in close collaboration with a group of autistic adults, clinicians and behavioral scientistis. Second, to investigate whether this co-created psychoeducation program “Older and Wiser” (van Heijst & Geurts, 2016) regarding autism and aging is beneficial for older autistic adults. We hypothesized that the psycho-education program will primarily lead to an improved insight in autism and the corresponding cognitive challenges, for participants and their proxy. Furthermore, we hypothesized that the program can secondarily improve mastery, self-efficacy, self-esteem, quality of life and hope and future perspectives, along with a decrease in self-stigmatization. Please note that these outcome measures were co-determined upon with the group of people that co-created the actual psycho-education program.

Methods: The psychoeducation program consists of six weekly meetings of approximately two hours. In meeting five, which focuses on the social network of the participants, a proxy of their choice was also present. On two different clinical sites a psycho-ducation group was run. Across these two sites, N=9 autistic adults (55-73 years) and N=9 proxies (33-70 years) participated. Both the baseline phase and an intervention phase lasted six weeks. Three times questionnaires were adminstered in the autisic adults and their proxies measuring the primary outcome measures. Furthermore, throughout both phases, participants fill out questionnaires for the secondary outcome measures, at the end of every single week.

Results: Quantitiate and qualitative data collection is complete, but is not analysed yet.

Conclusions: The process of the development of the program was fruitful, but whether the program it self indeed results in positive findings is not yet known. Qualitative information suggest that participants were positive about the content and set-up of the program, althought given the amount of information having a meeting every single week might be a bit too dense.