College students on the autism spectrum: Prevalence and associated problems

29 May

A recent study by a team at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University has investigated the prevalence of autism within a university population. The paper, College students on the autism spectrum: Prevalence and associated problems, found a groups of students who met the diagnositic criteria for autism but were previously undiagnosed.

Here is the abstract:

As more young people are identified with autism spectrum diagnoses without co-occurring intellectual disability (i.e. high-functioning autism spectrum disorder; HFASD), it is imperative that we begin to study the needs of this population. We sought to gain a preliminary estimate of the scope of the problem and to examine psychiatric risks associated HFASD symptoms in university students. In a large sample (n = 667), we examined prevalence of ASD in students at a single university both diagnostically and dimensionally, and surveyed students on other behavioral and psychiatric problems. Dependent upon the ascertainment method, between .7 per cent and 1.9 per cent of college students could meet criteria for HFASD. Of special interest, none of the students who were found to meet diagnostic criteria (n = 5) formally for HFASD in this study had been previously diagnosed. From a dimensional perspective, those students scoring above the clinical threshold for symptoms of autism (n = 13) self-reported more problems with social anxiety than a matched comparison group of students with lower autism severity scores. In addition, symptoms of HFASD were significantly correlated with symptoms of social anxiety, as well as depression and aggression. Findings demonstrate the importance of screening for autism-related impairment among university student

Repeated for emphasis: “Of special interest, none of the students who were found to meet diagnostic criteria (n = 5) formally for HFASD in this study had been previously diagnosed.”

We have had much discussion here lately as to whether “symptoms of autism” equate to autism. If this is the case, the prevalence of autism amongst college students is on the high side of the Virginia Tech team’s estimates.

“From a dimensional perspective, those students scoring above the clinical threshold for symptoms of autism (n = 13) self-reported more problems with social anxiety than a matched comparison group of students with lower autism severity scores.”

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23 Responses to “College students on the autism spectrum: Prevalence and associated problems”

  1. Robin P Clarke May 29, 2011 at 10:04 #

    Repeated for emphasis: “Of special interest, none of the students who were found to meet diagnostic criteria (n = 5) formally for HFASD in this study had been previously diagnosed.”

    Why this “repeat for emphasis” (of only n = 5 cases anyway)?

    Being students they are presumably about 20 yrs old in 2011, and so would have been born about 1991. That’s right in the midst of the sharp increase you can see in
    this graph of changing onset ratios
    and
    this (exactly concurrent) graph of increasing diagnoses. Given the usual tendency of diagnosticians and bureaucracies to conservatism and hence resisting changes of prevalence, it is therefore to be expected that underdiagnosis would occur in that birth cohort.

  2. Ullie May 29, 2011 at 23:07 #

    Very interesting findings, and an addition to much-needed research about adults on the spectrum. One problem for college students, whether diagnosed or not, self-identifying or not, is that it’s not clear what services or accommodations are appropriate. Most need nothing physical, but they do need a certain amount of patience and understanding from teaching staff, and a certain amount of watchfulness to identify depression or anxiety.

  3. Sniffer May 29, 2011 at 23:34 #

    Dear Ullie,

    “There are far too many children who have very extreme learning needs who are receiving ten hours a week or one-to-one learning tuition from an unqualified person,” he stated. “We have got to make sure that the meeting [with a special educational needs pupil] is given by an appropriately qualified person.”

    “The DoE’s recent Children with Special Education Needs 2010 report found that the most common types of primary need were autistic spectrum disorder and moderate learning difficulties, while the least common was multisensory impairment.”

    More to the point ,why are genetic`s in humans changing soooo fast..winky, wink, wink.Forgot it`s enviromental ..flutter,flutter

    Sincerely

    Sniffer

    http://www.hays.co.uk/features/HAYS_034517

  4. robinp May 30, 2011 at 02:05 #

    they do need a certain amount of patience and understanding from teaching staff,

    …whereas in the real world many persons including teaching staff are in the business of hostility rather than support. In particular colleges tend to put strong value on mindless respect for authority and conformity, which those of autistic tendencies are particularly disinclined to respect.

  5. Sullivan May 30, 2011 at 20:04 #

    “Why this “repeat for emphasis” (of only n = 5 cases anyway)?”

    Because, these 5 students–about 0.9% of the student population–remained unindentified their whole lives.

    The idea of an “epidemic” is based on the false premise that prevalence studies find all autistics. This is clearly not the case, as study after study has shown.

  6. Kassiane May 30, 2011 at 22:08 #

    I’m gunna send this to DS and others at my school. The idea of an autistic person in college is apparently really effing novel to them.

  7. Robin P Clarke May 31, 2011 at 10:34 #

    Sullivan here (as always) conveniently forgets about the graph I have linked to above. It was likewise ignored when I linked it on lbrb on a previous occasion. Because the diehards here develop a remarkable blindness as soon as evidence they can’t challenge is presented, in contrast to the seemingly clear vision with which they imagine their preferred Truths to be revealed by their preferred flawed studies.

  8. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 31, 2011 at 12:27 #

    Kassiane: “The idea of an autistic person in college is apparently really effing novel to them.”

    Here’s an autistic person who went through college and got to his master’s degree, and it’s still a fucking weird concept to the Finnish! Says more about the Finnish than it does about the person: in the UK, the idea is not so odd, and there’s specialist support for us. Finland – in that sense – is a total fuck up, educationally.

  9. Robin P Clarke May 31, 2011 at 12:46 #

    David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.

    Certificate of Prolific Swearing in English?

  10. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 31, 2011 at 16:03 #

    RPC … wow! feel good about yourself… you cracked a funny.

    Certificate of Professional Specialisation in Education, if you really can be arsed to know.

  11. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 31, 2011 at 16:06 #

    RPC, my response waiting for moderator to let it through.

    Not that I’m the only one proficient in swearing … not that I’m saying you’re trying to pick on me, but here’s someone else who’s good at swearing in English.

    (and yes, I did give a little chuckle at your comment.)

  12. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 31, 2011 at 16:09 #

    Here!

  13. Kassiane May 31, 2011 at 20:14 #

    We have all kinds of degreed autists (I am one. I just want another one, bc turns out I strongly dislike teaching in schools) yet they can’t handle the idea.

    Or, more accurately, a community college PE teacher and the associated deans can’t.

    Where do I get my prolific in swearing badge, btw?

  14. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 31, 2011 at 22:27 #

    “We have all kinds of degreed autists (I am one. I just want another one, bc turns out I strongly dislike teaching in schools) yet they can’t handle the idea.”

    Yep.

    “Or, more accurately, a community college PE teacher and the associated deans can’t.”

    Actually … that’s more accurate.

    “Where do I get my prolific in swearing badge, btw?”

    Well… I’m gonna have to set up a site for this now … I shall let you know, soon as.

    • Sullivan May 31, 2011 at 22:34 #

      Kassiane,

      At the risk of playing the “diagnosing them from afar” and “autistics are techies” cards:

      My guess is that your university may have autistics on the faculty. There are a number of people in physics and math departments whom I’ve met for whom a diagnosis of autism would not surprise me.

      Oh, wait, I just played the “deny that autism is a disability” card, didn’t I. (not really, but I know how some people think)

  15. Sniffer May 31, 2011 at 22:40 #

    Dear Sullivan,

    It`s the new norm, Autism is all about us I think that’s what your projecting.

    It still doesn’t validate the carnage being dished on the population through un-safe vaccines and drugs.

    What make`s it right for you to think it`s normal.

    Sincerely

    Sniffer

  16. McD June 1, 2011 at 00:40 #

    Sullian, you have some support there:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11706868

    • Sullivan June 1, 2011 at 01:00 #

      Thanks McD. Gotta love the phrase “the folk-psychology/folk-physics theory of autism”

  17. Kassiane June 1, 2011 at 07:08 #

    I’m pretty sure there are a few BAPpy people in the physics and comp sci departments (I’m biology, myself, with a liking for chemistry as well). And I am convinced i have class with several BAPpy folks as well.

    The deans and the PE dept, though, they’re a bunch of Frat Boys. Good god.

    *kicks the rocks she climbs better than the asshat who kicked her out of class for being autistic*

    *goes off and rants elsewhere*

  18. Frank T June 1, 2011 at 20:04 #

    How realistic is a upsurge in the numbers of cases diagnosed in a economic environment that rewards big pharma and the special interest with monies for research and treatment allocations?
    http://www.dailyrx.com/news-article/autism-national-health-emergency-12495.html

  19. Jules February 14, 2013 at 09:49 #

    One other issue it that the number of cases where symptoms of ADHD are being found in in kids to college students are increasing in parallel with autism. In addition, those with the numbers with both ADHD and dyslexia are also increasing to a point where studies are now being conducted into the relation between the two conditions…

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