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The Assessment of Core Autism Symptoms and Co-Occurring Psychiatric Conditions

Dr. Brenna Maddox, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania

The assessment of autism symptoms can be particularly challenging in the context of co-occurring psychiatric conditions. The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2) is considered a “gold-standard” instrument for diagnosing autism. Although the ADOS-2 shows good sensitivity and specificity in lab-based settings, it is less clear whether these results hold in community clinics that serve a more psychiatrically impaired population. Dr. Maddox will present findings from a study that evaluated the diagnostic accuracy of the ADOS-2 among adults receiving outpatient services in a community mental health setting (n = 75). The ADOS-2 accurately identified all adults on the autism spectrum; however, it also had a high rate of false positives among adults with psychosis (30%). Findings serve as a reminder that social communication difficulties measured by the ADOS-2 are not specific to autism. Dr. Maddox will also present findings from a study that found a high rate of co-occurring social anxiety disorder in adults on the autism spectrum, highlighting the differential diagnosis challenges given the considerate phenotypic overlap between autism and social anxiety disorder.