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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 58 (2016) 12, 854 - 862

New research

Diagnostics and treatment of autism spectrum disorders in older adults: a study by experts

B. Hitzert, R. Schmidt, H.M. Geurts, S.P.J. van Alphen

background Empirical research into the diagnostics and treatment of older adults with autism spectrum disorders (asd) is very limited; so far, only 17 studies have been published. asd, however, is not confined to child and adult psychiatry. Increasingly, asd is being identified and treated within the domain of geriatric psychiatry.
aim To investigate diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of asd in older adults, and to obtain insight into how these aspects are related to ageing.
method Delphi techniques were employed via rounds of questionnaires put to experts; consensus was considered to have been achieved when a minimum of two-thirds of the experts ‘agreed’ or ‘fully agreed’ to a statement on a five-point scale.
results Consensus was achieved for 10 of the 17 statements. According to the experts, older patients with asd, form a specific group in psychiatry. With regard to diagnosis, there was a consensus that increased attention needs to be given to age-related aspects by linking symptoms more specifically to the patient’s phase of life and to the ageing process. In the treatment of older adults with asd, adjustments need to be made in relation to ageing.
conclusion This study by experts provides additional starting points for more research into specific topics relating to diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of asd in geriatric psychiatry; these topics include validation of screening and diagnostic instruments, the adjustment of protocols for treatment, psycho-education and the effects of ageing in patients with asd.

keywords autism spectrum disorders, diagnostics, older adults, treatment