Compensatory strategies to disguise autism spectrum disorder may delay diagnosis

ScienceDaily | 7/23/2019 | Staff
Autism spectrum disorder is characterised by social communication impairments and by repetitive and restricted behaviours. There is limited understanding of why some autistic people appear neurotypical in their behaviours, despite having autism-related cognitive difficulties or differences.

Compensation is an adaptive process whereby new behaviours are generated in order to avoid negative outcomes. It is different from masking, where presumed undesirable behaviours are hidden or stopped. In the case of people with autism, people may use past experience or logic to respond to social situations to increase opportunities and "fit in" with society. However, they continue to be autistic at a neurocognitive level and this can lead to challenges in diagnosing and supporting individuals.

Lucy - Livingston - Author - Study - King

Lucy Livingston, lead author of the study from King's College London, UK, says: "This study highlights that compensation is an adaptive response to external societal pressures. This finding is in line with research that autistic people are, despite the negative impact on their wellbeing, driven to meet society's expectations of behaviour. Neurotypical society could do more to accommodate people with autism, which we speculate might reduce the need for them to compensate."

The authors advertised to recruit participants for their study via social media and with the National Autistic Society. 136 adults were asked to complete an online study. Of the participants, 58 had a clinical diagnosis, 19 self-identified without a formal diagnosis and 59 were not diagnosed or self-identified, but reported social difficulties. The study looked into what compensatory strategies participants used, whether the strategies used were similar in diagnosed and undiagnosed people, and how compensatory strategies affected diagnosis.

Participants - Traits - Autism - Spectrum - Questionnaire

The participants were asked to self-report autistic traits by completing a ten-item autism spectrum questionnaire and then a series of open questions about their social compensatory strategies. They also reported how successful and tiring their strategies were, and the likelihood of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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