Does learning you are autistic at a younger age lead to better adult outcomes? A participatory exploration of the perspectives of autistic university students

Tomisin Oredipe, Bella Kofner, Ariana Riccio, Eilidh Cage, Jonathan Vincent, Steven Kenneth Kapp, Patrick Dwyer, Kristen Gillespie-Lynch

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Abstract

Many autistic people do not learn they are autistic until adulthood. Parents may wait to tell a child they are autistic until they feel the child is “ready.” In this study, a participatory team of autistic and non-autistic researchers examined if learning one is autistic at a younger age is associated with heightened well-being and Autism-Specific Quality of Life (ASQoL) among autistic university students. Autistic students (n = 78) completed an online survey. They shared when and how they learned they were autistic, how they felt about autism when first learning they are autistic and now, and when they would tell autistic children about their autism. Learning one is autistic earlier was associated with heightened Quality of Life and well-being in adulthood. However, learning one is autistic at an older age was associated with more positive emotions about autism when first learning one is autistic. Participants expressed both positive and negative emotions about autism and highlighted contextual factors to consider when telling a child about autism. Findings suggest that telling a child that they are autistic at a younger age empowers them by providing access to support and a foundation for self-understanding that helps them thrive in adulthood.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAutism
Early online date11 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 11 Apr 2022

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