Compensatory Strategies to Disguise Autism Spectrum Disorder May Delay Diagnosis

Posted on July 26, 2019

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often face difficulties building social relationships and typically produce repetitive actions. In order to improve their interactions with others, compensation strategies are used. These strategies involve learning new behaviors to prevent negative consequences, usually as a result of prior experiences and logical reasoning.

This shows that individuals with autism are motivated to integrate normally into the society, hence aiming to comply with societal norms and expectations. However, as these people are still autistic at a neurocognitive level, using compensation strategies would only make it more difficult for them to be properly diagnosed and treated.

136 adults were recruited for a study that investigates the outcomes of compensation behaviors. Of these individuals, 58 were clinically diagnosed with ASD, 19 of them were self-identified and 59 reported facing some social difficulties but were not diagnosed or self-identified. The participants were asked to describe the compensatory strategies they used, how effective they are and identify any autistic traits they might have.

Some of these strategies include masking their true thoughts, rehearsing what they want to say and laughing when jokes are told. Participants found it more difficult to uphold these strategies when they are stressed. Furthermore, the compensatory strategies did not help with the individuals’ internal social cognitive struggles. Nonetheless, individuals with ASD still keep up with the compensation as it also brings about certain benefits for them, such as being employed and having friends.

Findings of the study suggest that utilizing compensatory strategies is associated with worsening mental health as well as delayed diagnosis of ASD. Out of the participants who were diagnosed, majority of them were only diagnosed late in adulthood.

Given the pressures to fit into our current society and live normally, many individuals with ASD may compromise their mental wellbeing and limit their freedom to act in a manner that is comfortable for them. The society could put in greater efforts to become more accepting of people with ASD and lighten pressures on them to engage in compensatory strategies.

Category(s):Autism spectrum disorders

Source material from Science Daily