Planning and Participation: a new study targeting teenagers with autism

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Adolescence is a critical period of transition between childhood and adulthood. Teenagers experience rapid developmental changes and face new challenges from the world around them.

At the same time, they are looking to develop their independence – relying less on their parents to look after them, and initiating their own activities. Every adolescent deals with this transition in a different way, but young people with autism can face additional difficulties.

Our researchers are leading a new study to try and pinpoint the individual factors that may cause these difficulties by investigating a set of cognitive abilities, known as executive functioning, in teenagers with autism.

Executive functioning generally develops at the beginning of adolescence, and plays a key role in determining how we organise and act on important information.

The ‘Planning and Participation’ study aims to understand if difficulties with these thought processes are linked to difficulties in completing basic, everyday tasks. Researchers use clinical instruments to draw a profile of the young person’s strengths and weaknesses, and talk to caregivers about behaviours observed in everyday life.

It is hoped that our researchers will be able to identify specific difficulties so they can better tailor approaches to help young people with autism participate in the community.

Seventeen teenagers have already taken part in the study and feedback has been positive. One participant, aged 13, said “It was well organised and everything ran smoothly.”

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For some of the parents who accompanied their children the study has helped them review their children’s current skills. One mother said “It was an occasion to reflect on some change that had happened since he was diagnosed at 3 years of age and what still represents a difficulty.”

If you are interested in participating or know someone who would be keen to do so, please contact Francesca Lami at or phone: 9345 4620.

Travel expenses are reimbursed and each family participating will receive a report with the assessment results.

(Source: Murdoch Childrens Research Institute)

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Date Created: March 13, 2017 Date Modified: March 15, 2017