Evidence lacking on best approaches to treat autism in teens and young adults

Research Activities, October 2012, No. 386

Despite the number of teens and young adults affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), there is insufficient evidence available for caregivers to choose the best therapies for this group, concludes a research review on the topic. The review focused on the comparative effectiveness of behavioral, educational, vocational, adaptive-life-skill, and medical interventions. It found that most studies had low strength of evidence, addressed different interventions and outcomes, and lacked replication, making it challenging to draw comparisons across therapies. Additional research is needed that includes standardized intervention protocols and outcomes, and that addresses the long-term effectiveness and harms of each intervention. Given the large number of children affected, more research is necessary to fill the current gaps in research.

ASDs affect roughly one in 88 children in the United States, and more than 55,000 teenagers between the age of 15 and 17. As children with ASD transition to adolescence and young adulthood, available research suggests that some range of medical and non-medical interventions (e.g., special education, daycare) will be required. Estimated medical and non-medical costs are as high as $3.2 million per person and $35 billion per year for the entire birth group of individuals with autism. Effective intervention strategies are a key to providing affordable care.

These findings can be found in the new research review, Interventions for Adolescents and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders, produced by the Effective Health Care Program of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). To access this review and other materials that explore the effectiveness and risks of treatment options for various conditions, visit AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program Web site at http://www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov.

Current as of October 2012
Internet Citation: Evidence lacking on best approaches to treat autism in teens and young adults: Research Activities, October 2012, No. 386. October 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/oct12/1012RA25.html