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Raise your hand if you did NOT see the Dateline NBC special on adults with autism……..It’s been pretty popular this week and if you haven’t heard about it, perhaps you are living under a rock. We won’t judge you! You can still catch it here.

Rachel Kaplan Working on a Farm

Many parents reported online how sad the show made them feel or how depressed they were for their child’s future. I agree that it can be overwhelming to think about the cost of servicing so many adults with autism or even worse, to think of a loved one without adequate care. However, it is not all gloom and doom. Adults with autism can still learn! Don’t give up hope. To prove this fact, today’s research review describes the results of a study on 4 adults with autism. Lattimore, Parsons, and Reid conducted the study and published it in 2006.The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis published the study in 2006.

Study Purpose

The authors set out to study and compare the outcomes for adults with autism who received job-site training. One group received training plus simulation while the other group received job-site training only. Researchers taught participants skills such as learning to prepare envelopes for mailing books, emptying trash cans, or preparing packing paper. The study authors taught these skills using principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA).

Study Design

The authors used a multiple probe design across participants to demonstrate experimental control and to analyze the effects of the intervention. This design allowed the authors to rule out extraneous explanations for the study results, and it especially controls for maturation (e.g., the participants getting better due to exposure to the task or simply getting older).

Study Results

Participants who received job-site training plus simulation training made more progress or had higher task performance than those who did not receive the additional simulation training. This was true even if the participant worked only 1 day per week!

So while the future may feel bleak given the limited resources available for adults, it is important to know that adults with autism may still learn. It is never too late to start ABA!

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