(KCPW News) University of Utah psychiatric researchers have found that a group of 41 autistic Utahns showed great improvement over the past two decades. Research Associate Megan Farley says when they were first evaluated in the 1980s, at an average age of seven, Utah had several cutting edge early intervention programs. She feels these programs and Utah's unique culture may have contributed to their success.
"It could have something to do with the social structures here in Utah, in particular the LDS Church, not to suggest that being part of the church means you're going to have a better outcome, but just that when there is a community of people who are all looking out for a person and trying to make sure that they are learning things, and having lots of stimulating opportunities, then we suppose that is probably going to be a really beneficial thing," Farley said.
The participants' social outcomes were measured by their ability to live independently, develop social relationships, and maintain employment. Nearly half of them achieved either a good or very good outcome. And the study found that 11 of the 41 participants had improved their IQs by more than 15 points. According to Farley, the evidence shows that IQ and social outcomes aren't necessarily connected.
"They could have a very low average IQ, but have some pretty good daily living skills and then they were doing really well compared to some people who had really high IQ scores and who had really poor daily living skills and you know those folks were sort of maybe at home, not able to get something meaningful for themselves to do during the day," Farley said.
Farley says the study doesn't specifically answer why the participants' intelligence or social outcomes improved, but she feels it gives hope to autistic children and those with lower IQs.