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      Autism spectrum disorder traits among prisoners

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          – The purpose of this paper is to determine the extent of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits among prisoners. The authors tested the hypotheses that ASD traits would: be continuously distributed among prisoners; be unrecognised by prison staff; and predict whether a prisoner met diagnostic criteria for ASD.


          – ASD traits were measured among 240 prisoners in a male prison in London, UK using the 20-item Autism Quotient (AQ-20). Further diagnostic assessment was carried out using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. Results were compared with ASD data from the 2007 Psychiatric Morbidity Survey.


          – There were 39 participants with an AQ-20 score=10; indicating significant autistic traits. The distribution of ASD traits among participants appeared to be normal and was not significantly higher than the rate found in a population-based sample from England.


          – Few studies have explored ASD traits among prisoners. The authors identified high levels of unrecognised ASD traits among a group of male prisoners, many of whom went on to meet diagnostic criteria for ASD. The study highlights the need for specialist assessment within the criminal justice system for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders including ASD. The authors discuss the process of carrying out an ASD assessment project in a prison.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Autism spectrum disorders are characterised by severe deficits in socialisation, communication, and repetitive or unusual behaviours. Increases over time in the frequency of these disorders (to present rates of about 60 cases per 10,000 children) might be attributable to factors such as new administrative classifications, policy and practice changes, and increased awareness. Surveillance and screening strategies for early identification could enable early treatment and improved outcomes. Autism spectrum disorders are highly genetic and multifactorial, with many risk factors acting together. Genes that affect synaptic maturation are implicated, resulting in neurobiological theories focusing on connectivity and neural effects of gene expression. Several treatments might address core and comorbid symptoms. However, not all treatments have been adequately studied. Improved strategies for early identification with phenotypic characteristics and biological markers (eg, electrophysiological changes) might hopefully improve effectiveness of treatment. Further knowledge about early identification, neurobiology of autism, effective treatments, and the effect of this disorder on families is needed.
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            The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ)--adolescent version.

            The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) quantifies autistic traits in adults. This paper adapted the AQ for children (age 9.8-15.4 years). Three groups of participants were assessed: Group 1: n=52 adolescents with Asperger Syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA); Group 2: n=79 adolescents with classic autism; and Group 3, n=50 controls. The adolescents with AS/HFA did not differ significantly from the adolescents with autism but both clinical groups scored higher than controls. Approximately 90% of the adolescents with AS/HFA and autism scored 30+, vs. none of the controls. Among the controls, boys scored higher than girls. The AQ can rapidly quantify where an adolescent is situated on the continuum from autism to normality.
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              Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders and influence of country of measurement and ethnicity.

              The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is generally somewhat lower in countries outside of North America and Europe. While there are culture-specific patterns of social cognitive processing, the influence of such patterns upon ASD prevalence has yet to be fully explored. A comprehensive literature search for original articles reporting ASD prevalence was undertaken. Data across studies were compared with a particular focus on variables of geographic residence and ethnicity. ASD prevalence varies across countries in a manner that appears to suggest that the greatest influence is due to methodological variables. The nature of a potential influence of culture-specific patterns of cognitive processing upon prevalence remains unknown. The available little data concerning the association between ethnicity and prevalence are limited to studies within the United States (US) showing differences in children of Hispanic descent relative to Whites, a finding for which a definitive explanation is lacking. Available evidence suggests that methodological factors are largely responsible for differences in ASD prevalence across studies. The much discussed increase in prevalence in ASD has been observed worldwide, suggesting that the refinement of diagnostic methodology and/or broadening diagnostic concept is not limited to Western countries. Within individual countries, only in the US has the influence of ethnicity upon ASD prevalence been examined in depth. In the US, children of Hispanic descent have the lowest prevalence of ASD, while Whites tend to have the highest prevalence of ASD. Hypothesized etiological factors for such prevalence differences include methodological factors, socioeconomic variables, and bias.

                Author and article information

                Advances in Autism
                Emerald Publishing
                4 July 2016
                4 July 2016
                : 2
                : 3
                : 106-117
                Centre for Longitudinal Research Auckland, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand AND Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Science, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK
                Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK AND East London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
                London South Bank University, London, UK AND South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
                Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK
                Research Autism, London, UK
                Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK
                © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
                Research paper
                Health & social care
                Learning & intellectual disabilities
                Custom metadata

                Health & Social care

                Prison, Assessment, Autism spectrum disorder, Forensic psychiatry


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