RESIDENT: Psychosocial Interventions and Quality of Life in Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Presenting Author(s): Dr. Howie Wu

Co-Author(s): Aisouda Savadlou, Manisha Paul, Khadija Abbas, Xander Grieg, Dan Devoe, Iliana Ortega

Date and time: 25 Mar 2023 from 15:05 to 15:20

Location: Hawthorn B  Floor Map

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the challenges of young adulthood for individuals with ASD;
  2. Identify psychosocial interventions which have been shown to improve QoL in young adults with ASD;
  3. Identify gaps in the current literature and potential areas for future research.


Many young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) lose supports they had during childhood, and their difficulties are compounded by complexities of adult life. Though approaches to treatment of ASD in young adults emphasize psychosocial interventions, there are few studies of these that have measured quality of life (QoL). Thus, we present a systematic review of the effect of psychosocial interventions on QoL in young adults with ASD.

Searches conducted in MEDLINE, Embase, PsycInfo, CINAHL, and Web of Science used terms related to autism spectrum disorder, young adult, and quality of life. In total, 1474 studies were identified initially, with twelve studies included in the final review.

Six studies showed significant improvements in QoL, with four studies targeting adaptive functioning skills and two studies utilizing schema therapy and DBT. The six studies that did not show significant changes in QoL included four studies targeting adaptive functioning skills and two studies utilizing CBT. Through qualitative analysis, there were no significant differences between interventions which improved QoL and those which did not. There was considerable heterogeneity between studies, but one similarity was need for longer follow-up periods to demonstrate changes in QoL. The quality across studies was low, with limitations including small sample sizes and lack of control groups.

This review shows lack of high-quality evidence for the effects of psychosocial interventions on QoL in young adults with ASD. Future studies should consider assessing QoL at longer time points after intervention as this may be required to demonstrate changes in QoL measures.

Literature References

  1. Levy A, Perry A. Outcomes in adolescents and adults with autism: A review of the literature. RES AUTISM SPECT DIS. 2011;5(4):1271-1282. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2011.01.023. 
  2. Pallathra AA, Cordero L, Wong K, Brodkin ES. Psychosocial Interventions Targeting Social Functioning in Adults on the Autism Spectrum: a Literature Review. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019;21(1):1-11. doi: 10.1007/s11920-019-0989-0.
  3. Gorenstein M, Giserman-Kiss I, Feldman E, et al. Brief Report: A Job-Based Social Skills Program (JOBSS) for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. J Autism Dev Disord. 2020;50(12):4527-4534. doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04482-8.
  4. Oswald TM, Winder-Patel B, Ruder S, Xing G, Stahmer A, Solomon M. A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the ACCESS Program: A Group Intervention to Improve Social, Adaptive Functioning, Stress Coping, and Self-Determination Outcomes in Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2017;48(5):1742-1760. doi: 10.1007/s10803-017-3421-9.
  5. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence: Clinical Guidelines. Autism spectrum disorder in adults: diagnosis and management. London: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE); 2021

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