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Title: Ageing in autism spectrum disorder
Author: Yarar, Esra
ISNI:       0000 0004 6347 9696
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis aimed to investigate symptomatology, psychopathology, and neurocognitive characteristics of older adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Given the limited research on ageing in ASD, the three studies presented in this thesis were primarily exploratory. First, data on mental health and normative life outcome are reported from adults attending a tertiary referral clinic for a possible first diagnosis of ASD. Young (aged 18-38) and old (aged 50-70) adults were compared across two groups; those who did (N=58) versus did not (N=46) receive a final ASD diagnosis. Analyses revealed better life outcome in the old versus young group, although additional psychiatric diagnoses were common across ages in ASD. In the second study, groups of older (N=29, aged 50-71 years) and younger adults (N=29, aged 19-48) with ASD, and comparison groups of neurotypical (NT) young (N=20, aged 20-44) and old (N=19, aged 52-71) adults, were recruited and tested in person by the author. The most striking finding was an age by group interaction in Theory of Mind (ToM) performance; ASD adults did not show the decrease in ToM performance with age, seen in the NT group. The third and last study took a dimensional approach to ASD, examining social cognition, mental health and wellbeing in grandparents (N=43, aged 53-85) of individuals with ASD; a group expected to be enriched for the ‘broad autism phenotype’. To tap ToM in this postal study, a novel task was designed. Again, few age effects were found within this sample, but mental health was a significant cause for concern and predictor of quality of life. Overall, these findings, in an under-researched area, suggest that many aspects of mental health and wellbeing do not change greatly in older adulthood in ASD, perhaps remaining more stable than in NT adults. Limitations and directions for future research in this important area, are discussed.
Supervisor: Happe, Francesca Gabrielle Elizabeth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available