Evidence-based support for autistic people across the lifespan: maximising potential, minimising barriers, and optimising the person-environment fit.
Autism is both a medical condition that gives rise to disability and an example of human variation that is characterised by neurological and cognitive differences. The goal of evidence-based intervention and support is to alleviate distress, improve adaptation, and promote wellbeing. Support should be collaborative, with autistic individuals, families, and service providers taking a shared decision-making approach to maximise the individual’s potential, minimise barriers, and optimise the person-environment fit. Comprehensive, naturalistic early intervention with active caregiver involvement can facilitate early social communication, adaptive functioning, and cognitive development; targeted intervention can help to enhance social skills and aspects of cognition. Augmentative and alternative communication interventions show preliminary evidence of benefit in minimising communication barriers. Co-occurring health issues, such as epilepsy and other neurodevelopmental disorders, sleep problems, and mental health challenges, should be treated in a timely fashion. The creation of autism-friendly contexts is best achieved by supporting families, reducing stigma, enhancing peer understanding, promoting inclusion in education, the community, and at work, and through advocacy.