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Cogn Behav Neurol. 2019 Sep;32(3):139-163. doi: 10.1097/WNN.0000000000000201.

Psychoeducational Interventions for Adults With Level 3 Autism Spectrum Disorder: A 50-Year Systematic Review.

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Division of Cognitive Neurology/Neuropsychology, Department of Neurology, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, New York, New York.
Orthopedic Surgery.
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, Maryland.
Cognitive Science Department, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.


There is face validity to the expectation that adults with level 3 autism spectrum disorder (ASD-3) will benefit from a range of psychoeducational interventions. This paper reviews the empirical evidence supporting the effectiveness of these interventions, many of which are currently used in clinical settings. We reviewed 56 peer-reviewed studies of psychoeducational interventions for adults with ASD-3, written in English and since 1968, that met our criteria. The reviewing team included educators, clinicians, researchers, and a biostatistician. The available literature was limited, and most, if not all, of the studies presented some significant methodological limitations. When using Cochrane's criteria to assess seven key outcome domains-activities of daily living, aggressive/destructive behaviors, emotional functioning, language/communication skills, self-injurious behaviors, stereotypy/mannerisms, and vocational skills-we found only moderately reliable evidence to support the effectiveness of interventions designed to improve emotional functioning in adults with ASD-3. The reliability of evidence relevant to the six other outcome domains was rated as low or very low. Based on this review, we suggest directions for future study of interventions for adults with ASD-3, including topics, subpopulations, and approaches that should be explored. We also propose some crucial changes in how future studies regarding this population should be designed, analyzed, and documented, while balancing clinical considerations with scientific/educational utility.

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