Explicit biases of autism may be ameliorated by autism acceptance training focused on increasing autism knowledge and familiarity. These findings were published in the journal Autism.

Undergraduates (N=238) were recruited from The University of Texas at Dallas. After a reading subtest, participants were randomly assigned to receive autism acceptance training (n=77), mental health training (n=77), or no training (n=84). The training conditions both comprised a 25-minute-long instructional video. Next, all participants watched 20 10-second videos of autistic adults participating in an unrehearsed, mock audition for a reality television program. Participants rated each video using the First Impressions Scale and were assessed for their autism knowledge and stigma.

Participants were aged mean 21.5 (standard deviation [SD], 4.67) years, 69% were women, 40% were White, 39% were Asian, and 8% were Black.


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Participants who received the autism training rated autistic individuals from the videos as significantly more intelligent (b, -0.47; P <.001) and attractive (b, -0.30; P =.016) than those who received mental health training. Participants who received no training rated autistic individuals as more intelligent (b, -0.18; P =.042) than those who received the mental health training.

Participants in the mental health cohort (b, -0.29; P =.021; b, -0.28; P =.038) and control group (b, -0.30; P =.013; b, -0.29; P =.017) had a decreased desire to hang out or start a conversation with the autistic individuals, respectively.

Those who received the autism training had a more accurate understanding of autism compared with the mental health training (d, 0.59; P =.003) but not the control group (d, 0.35; P =.073).

Compared with the mental health group, the autism cohort were less likely to think autistic individuals were uninterested in friendships (d, 0.85; P <.001), had lower intelligence (d, 0.67; P <.001), were deliberately uncooperative (d, 0.48; P =.014), or did not show attachment behaviors (d, 0.56; P =.003).

The autism training recipients had lower stigma against autism and were more accepting of marrying or dating an autistic individual than either the mental health (d, 0.53; P =.007; 0.45; P =.022) or control (d, 0.45; P =.036; d, 0.47; P =.020) groups, respectively.

Significant negative correlations were observed between autism stigma and knowledge (r, -0.41; P <.01), Specific Levels of Functional Scale (SLOF) work (r, -0.38; P <.01), SLOF activities (r, -0.32; P <.01), SLOF acceptability (r, -0.27; P <.01), and SLOF interpersonal (r, -0.17; P <.01) scores. Significant positive correlations were observed between autism knowledge and SLOF activities (r, 0.39; P <.01), SLOF work (r, 0.38; P <.01), SLOF acceptability (r, 0.31; P <.01), and SLOF interpersonal (r, 0.21; P <.01) scores.

This study was limited by time and space. It remains unclear whether autism-associated biases were reduced in real-life situations for the long term.

These findings indicated brief video-based training may decrease explicit bias of autism among young adults.

Reference

Jones DR, De Brabander KM, Sasson NJ. Effects of autism acceptance training on explicit and implicit biases toward autism. Autism. 2021;1362361320984896. doi:10.1177/1362361320984896