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Teens with autism often socially isolated

WASHINGTON U.-ST.LOUIS (US) — Teens with autism face major obstacles to social life outside of school, according to a new study that emphasizes the danger of limited peer relationships and the importance of group activities.

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 published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

“We looked at data from a group of over 11,000 adolescents enrolled in special education,” says assistant professor Paul Shattuck, an autism expert at Washington University in St. Louis. The group included adolescents with ASDs, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and speech and language impairments.

“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.”

Shattuck says 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.

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

“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 conversational impairment and low social communication skills were associated with a lower likelihood of social participation.

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 school context factors were not significantly related to social participation.

Study co-authors are Gael I. Orsmond of Boston University, Mary Wagner of SRI International, and Benjamin P. Cooper of Washington University in St. Louis.

More news from Washington University in St. Louis: http://news-info.wustl.edu/

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9 Comments

  1. Asha Persaud

    My youngest son was diagnosed three years ago with Autism/ADHD and a friend introduced me to a natural product made primarily from milk.
    I used this product and saw results in two months. Today my son shows no signs of Autism/Adhd, he is doing great in school and takes the initiative to do everything, truly a turnaround from the way he used to be. After the production of this milk it is the closest to mother’s milk because of the science and medical studies done, and it is recognized by many Doctors today, if anyone is interested in finding out more about this, please email me at asha.persaud@gmail.com. Thank you. There is hope for your kid(s

  2. Natacha Beim

    It is very important for parents to foster an environment at home where friends are welcome after school and on week-ends, and not starting in high-school, but starting in junior kindergarten, or at least by elementary school. Friendships are incredibly important for a child, and many parents sacrifice this “play” time in the name of extra-curricular activities, family time or more study time. All of those are important, and a well-balanced family will make time for everything.
    Often, the friends we have from childhood are those we keep in secondary school, and those that hold us strong while we bravely try to make new friendships in high school.

  3. Ileana Morales

    My son David was part of that 43% of teens with ASD that had no social life outside the school.and he became agressive, depressed, frustrated,that’s when Rosa and I started a club and completely turned around his difficult behaviors. It all began when Rosa threw a Sweet Sixteen party for her daughter,and all the kids were so happy all week – planning on what to wear,how to dance which the teachers at school showed them how to do. David didn’t have one outburst all week, which was a miracle for us, and they ended up having a blast at the party. The following Friday, I picked up seven of David’s high-functioning friends and we went to “hang out” at the movies “like the regular kids”(in the words of my son). This was the first time they had ever gone to the movies with friends and they would not stop laughing and talking, just being the teenagers that they so desperately craved to be. Rosa and I came out of the theater bawling our eyes out; we just felt so relieved to be able to do that for them. Now we go out every Friday. I have the kids calling me all week to see where we’re going and what time I’ll be there to pick them up. David and his friends are no longer the aggressive teenagers they once were,because they’re too busy planning their Friday night outings and it makes me proud to be a part of that.

  4. Barbara Gobbi

    My son has Autism and I found a sports program called Parkland Buddy Sports that organizes Soccer, Basketball, Running, Tennis, etc. for children with disabilities and partners them with a typical child “buddy”. I never thought my son could participate in extracurricular sports activities until now and he has built great friendships outside of school. On top of that, my teenage daughter is a volunteer “buddy” and is partnered with another Autistic child to help him play soccer. It’s so important that we as parents not enable them an let them become isolated.

  5. basenji dog

    Okay when Rosa and I started a club and completely turned around his difficult behaviors. It all began when Rosa threw a Sweet Sixteen party for her daughter,and all the kids were so happy all week – planning on what to wear,how to dance which the teachers at school showed them how to do. David didn’t have one outburst all week, which was a miracle for us, and they ended up having a blast at the party. The following Friday, I picked up seven of David’s high-functioning friends and we went to “hang out” at the movies “like the regular kids”(in the words of my son). This was the first time they had ever gone to the movies with friends and they would not stop laughing and talking, just being the teenagers that they so desperately craved to be. Rosa and I came out of the theater bawling our eyes out; we just felt so relieved to be able to do that for them.

  6. shar pei dog

    Okay when Rosa and I started a club and completely turned around his difficult behaviors. It all began when Rosa threw a Sweet Sixteen party for her daughter,and all the kids were so happy all week – planning on what to wear,how to dance which the teachers at school showed them how to do. David didn’t have one outburst all week, which was a miracle for us, and they ended up having a blast at the party. The following Friday, I picked up seven of David’s high-functioning friends and we went to “hang out” at the movies “like the regular kids”(in the words of my son). This was the first time they had ever gone to the movies with friends and they would not stop laughing and talking, just being the teenagers that they so desperately craved to be. Rosa and I came out of the theater bawling our eyes out; we just felt so relieved to be able to do that for them.

  7. linda

    Just being the teenagers that they so desperately craved to be. Rosa and I came out of the theater bawling our eyes out; we just felt so relieved to be able to do that for them.

  8. Rob N

    I thought it was just because I grew up on a farm 4 miles from town, a mile from anybody my age, but that matches my profile as well.

    I was borderline autistic as a kid (although they didn’t diagnose it back then). It was kind of frustrating that I didn’t get invited to parties, but I wasn’t about to invite myself to somebody else’s party. I did participate in sports, and had a couple friends that I’d occasionally get together with, but they lived several miles away. Only one time in all of high school did somebody tell me I should come to a party (but it was one of those with alcohol, and my parents, being teachers, would’ve known exactly what was going on).

    Pretty much the same thing in college too, only gatherings I went to were a couple in freshman year that involved the whole dorm floor (and then later, some outings with organizations I joined). Also, in addition to being shy, I dreaded using the phone, so there was no way I could just call somebody up and say, “hey let’s go do something”.

  9. Johnny Wellington

    Science confirms the obvious!

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