QUALITY OF LIFE Foundation for Autism Support and Training

QOL for People with Autism and Other Severe Developmental Disabilities

Overall findings were reported in Quality of Life – Dream or Reality? Life for People with Developmental Disabilities in Ontario by Ivan Brown, Dennis Raphael and Rebecca Renwick (Quality of Life Research Unit, Centre for Health Promotion, University of Toronto, 1997).

Overall QOL scores were found to be "poor" (indicating a strong need to improve QOL) for people in large institutional settings and large residential facilities and residential schools for nonverbal people everywhere. People with autism are "nonverbal" in that they either do not use speech at all, or they do not use functional speech as compared with typical people. Moreover, adults with autism have seldom been appropriately supported with augmentative and alternative means of communication. The factors involved in QOL may be expressed more positively.

People with higher QOL were associated with the following characteristics:

  • Living in community settings;
  • Having verbal skills;
  • Having higher functional abilities;
  • Not seeing a psychiatrist or taking psychotropic medications;
  • Not having complex medical needs;

Nonverbal people with higher QOL were associated with:

  • Having an occupational activity of some kind;
  • Not having marked behavior problems;
  • Having leisure activities in community;
  • Having community access;
  • Being more independent;
  • Making own decisions;
  • Having opportunities available from which decisions can be made;
  • Having practical support from other people;
  • Having emotional support from other people.

Quality of life for people with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities consists of the same aspects of life as for all other people. But adults on the autism spectrum, many of whom can not effectively communicate their needs, have specific needs that must be met to ensure a good quality of life. Many of these needs center on a range of sensory integration issues they struggle with, and those need to be recognized and appropriately addressed by caretakers.

Quality of life for people with autism and other developmental disabilities is based on common aspects of life for all humans, but it also reflects, from person to person, varying degrees of importance placed on those aspects of life. Quality of life for all people reflects how satisfied they are with aspects of life that are important to them. People live in environments. Thus, quality of life results from the interconnection between people and the environments in which they live.

To find more information on how you can help improve the quality of life for adults with autism spectrum disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders, contact the Foundation for Autism Support and Training.

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