Updates from the Lord Lab

The Lord Lab’s ongoing work to understand adult outcomes in autism and to identify factors that promote positive outcomes is highlighted in several new articles. These studies used data collected over thirty years to examine work and physical health outcomes, personal well-being, and the influence of siblings on autistic adults. We found that participation in any work activities was associated with increased well-being for adults with autism (Clarke, Sterrett, & Lord, 2021). Regarding physical health, we found many adults with autism were prescribed psychiatric medications for long periods of time. We also found higher rates of obesity in adults with autism compared to typical adults (Byrne et al., 2021). Finally, we found that autistic individuals with siblings had faster growth in adaptive behaviors (such as household chores and self-care) than autistic individuals without siblings. This was true for both Black and White participants, however, the positive impact of having a sibling was larger for Black participants (Rosen, McCauley, & Lord, 2021).

In addition to studying adult outcomes, the Lord Lab is also developing an online scoring system for the Brief Observation of Social and Communication Change (BOSCC; Grzadzinski et al., 2016). The BOSCC is an assessment of change in autism symptoms over short periods of time. The BOSCC is already in use internationally, and we hope the online scoring system will increase the availability of the BOSCC to autism researchers worldwide. Currently the BOSCC is designed for use with children with limited language—versions of the BOSCC designed specifically for verbal children and adults are also in development.

Finally, we are pleased to highlight recent awards received by three Lord Lab graduate students. Elaine Clarke, a third-year student, was selected for Autism Speaks’ Pre-Doctoral Fellowship to continue studying well-being and work outcomes in adults with ASD. Nicole Rosen, another third-year student, was awarded the UCLA William and Evelyn Hobson Fellowship, and Katherine Byrne, a second-year student, was selected for a merit-based scholarship from the Human Development and Psychology division of UCLA’s Education department.