Teens with autism face major obstacles to social life outside of school, study finds

By Jessica Martin
Teens with autism face major obstacles to social life outside of school, study finds

(Medical Xpress) -- Hanging out with friends after school and on the weekends is a vital part of a teen’s social life. But for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), social activity outside of school is a rarity, finds a new study by Paul Shattuck, PhD, autism expert and assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“We looked at data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 (NLTS2), a group of over 11,000 enrolled in special education,” he says.

“Out of this group, teens with an ASD were significantly more likely never to see friends out of school (43.3 percent), never to get called by friends (54.4 percent), and never to be invited to social activities (50.4 percent) when compared with adolescents from all the other groups.”

The NLTS2 includes groups of adolescents with ASDs, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities and speech and language impairments.

Shattuck says that these findings show that the majority of adolescents with an ASD experience major obstacles to social participation.

“It appears that experiences with peers are more likely to occur one-on-one, and perhaps at home rather than in the community,” he says.

Shattuck notes that limited or absent peer relationships can negatively influence health and mental health, especially during the teen years.

“One mechanism for promoting social relationships is by fostering participation with peers in group activities such as clubs, scouting, or sports,” Shattuck says.

“Only one-third of adolescents with an ASD are accessing such opportunities, and there is an obvious need for greater supports and services to promote community inclusion for this population,” he says.

The study found that conversational impairment and low social communication skills were associated with a lower likelihood of social participation.

“Having impaired conversational ability was associated with an elevated risk for friends never calling, never being invited to activities, and having no involvement in extracurricular activities,” Shattuck says.

Adolescents from families with lower income had an elevated risk for no involvement in activities, but not an elevated risk for limited contact with friends.

Age, sex, race, ethnicity, and context factors were not significantly related to social participation.

The study, “Participation in Social Activities among Adolescents with an Spectrum Disorder,” is published in PLoS ONE, the journal of the Public Library of Science.

More information: The full study is available at plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0027176#aff2

Related Stories

Children with autism benefit from early, intensive therapy

Sep 28, 2011

A primary characteristic of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is impairments in social-communication skills. Children and adolescents with social-communication problems face difficulty understanding, interacting and relating ...

Study finds sick kids have fewer friends

Dec 07, 2010

A new study reveals that sick teens are more isolated than other kids, but they do not necessarily realize it and often think their friendships are stronger than they actually are.

Parents play a powerful role in predicting DUI

Sep 07, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Sipping the occasional glass of wine may seem relatively harmless, and could even be beneficial to the drinker’s health. But for parents, even moderate drinking can result in one unintended consequence: ...

Recommended for you

Blood test spots adult depression

10 hours ago

(HealthDay)—A new blood test is the first objective scientific way to diagnose major depression in adults, a new study claims.

Job stress not the only cause of burnouts at work

13 hours ago

Impossible deadlines, demanding bosses, abusive colleagues, unpaid overtime—all these factors can lead to a burnout. When it comes to mental health in the workplace, we often forget to consider the influence of home life.

Web technology offers mental health support

17 hours ago

A web based application connecting people with potential mental health issues to clinical advice and support networks has been created by researchers at Aston and Warwick universities.

User comments