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Friday, October 27, 2017

First impressions of adults with autism improve with diagnostic disclosure and increased autism knowledge of peers


A practical consideration for many intellectually able adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is whether to disclose their diagnostic status or try to mask their autistic characteristics to avoid judgment and discrimination. Here, we assessed first impressions of adults with ASD and typically developing controls (N = 40) made by typically developing observers (N = 215) when their diagnostic status was either withheld, accurately provided, or inaccurately provided. First impressions were less favorable for ASD participants compared to typically developing controls across a range of judgments, but were significantly more positive when accurately labeled as ASD compared to when no label was provided, when mislabeled as typically developing, or when mislabeled as having schizophrenia. For typically developing participants, ratings did not change when accurately labeled but improved when mislabeled as ASD. Greater autistic traits for the ASD and typically developing participants were associated with less favorable first impressions, and females were rated more favorably than males. Autism knowledge of the raters, but not age, IQ, or autistic traits, was positively associated with more favorable impressions of ASD participants. Collectively, these findings suggest that first impressions for intellectually able adults with ASD improve with diagnostic disclosure and increased autism understanding on the part of peers.