Autism Befriending Program Study

Dr. Anthony J Bailey
Department of Psychiatry
University of British Columbia

Many able adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are socially isolated. Substantial research evidence shows that social isolation leads to poor psychological and physical health and decreased life expectancy. We are piloting a volunteer Befriending Program for adults with ASD living in the Metropolitan Vancouver area to determine whether this intervention can partially alleviate social isolation. We have screened and recruited 16 typically developing individuals who wish to volunteer 2-3 hours of their time every week or two to meet up with a specific individual with ASD in order to engage in typical social activities; they will be matched to a same-gender individual with ASD, whom we are currently recruiting with ACT and CAN. Dr Bailey was involved for 10 years in a similar scheme for general adult psychiatric outpatients at the Maudsley Hospital UK. We will assess affected individuals’ pre-befriending social activities and relationships using existing questionnaires and a purpose designed interview; the questionnaires and interview will be re-administered after 1 year. Befrienders have attended an educational and orientation meeting about ASD and the Befriending scheme. We will meet with each befriender in the first month of their befriending activity to answer any questions or concerns they may have and there will be a group meeting each month to provide supervision and support for Befrienders. This pilot study will demonstrate the effectiveness and acceptability of this type of intervention with individuals with ASD in an ethnically diverse population and if successful would subsequently be run by ACT/CAN and hopefully by other NGOs throughout Canada.