The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the importance of the lifespan approach to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and to provide a review of problems and supports provided at critical times in the lifespan. Many psychological theories, referred to as lifespan theories, acknowledge that people continue to grow and change throughout their lives as they are faced with new tasks, challenges, and opportunities. Following further lifespan theories, a review of outcomes evidence and exploration of commonly encountered concerns and successes in key developmental periods are presented. A developmental lifespan approach is predicated on the notion that individual development follows a trajectory over the course of the lifespan and that various factors can impact that trajectory and the subsequent life outcomes experienced by the individual. Since early childhood has been the subject of so many comprehensive reviews and texts, this chapter focuses on critical developmental periods that have been examined less frequently: adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood. Adolescence is marked by various other changes in psychosocial development, access to community activities and the related safety issues that can accompany those activities, and changing educational structure associated with the transition to middle and high school. Several research areas need to continue to be developed to ensure an adequate understanding of ASDs across the entire lifespan.
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