A new study out of South Carolina following 187 people diagnosed with autistic disorder found their long-term outcomes to be overwhelmingly negative. A team under Roger Stevenson of the Greenwood Genetic Center published the paper, “Autistic Disorder: A 20 Year Chronicle,” in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in June.
The subjects were followed over a course of 20 years. They had been enrolled in the study during a three-year period from early 1995 to early 1998, and were between the ages of 1 and 21 at that starting point. All were receiving services for autism from the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. The subjects included 153 males and 34 females, representing a 4.5:1 male–female ratio. Sixty-six percent had white ancestry, 32% black ancestry and 2% other ancestry, numbers that parallel the population in South Carolina. Of the enrollees, 84% had co-occurring intellectual disability. The average IQ in the cohort was 49. Twenty years later, at the average age of 27, the investigators ascertained their outcomes.
The outcome data was grim, showing pervasive inability to live independently, hold a job, or manage money. Few became independent, with 99% unable to live independently. Of those, 70% lived at home with relatives, 21% lived in disability homes in the community, and 8% in residential facilities.