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Suspected feigning of autism in adults: a clinician survey, indications and proposed guidelines

David Murphy (Department of Psychology, Broadmoor Hospital, Crowthorne, UK)
Josephine Grace Broyd (High Secure Research Hub, Broadmoor Hospital, Crowthorne, UK)

Advances in Autism

ISSN: 2056-3868

Article publication date: 21 January 2022

Issue publication date: 18 January 2023

78

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to provide a discussion and summary of a clinician survey exploring the experiences of suspected feigned autism.

Design/methodology/approach

This study is an online survey targeting a range of autism professionals, with varying levels of experience, working in different clinical settings.

Findings

Approximately half of the professionals who completed the survey reported experiencing situations of suspected feigning of adult autism across a range of clinical contexts and with various motivations. In terms of best indications of potential feigning, most clinicians reported “textbook” self-descriptions of problem behaviours with vague examples, as well as inconsistent presenting problems and mismatch with any known developmental history. Approximately half of clinicians expressed the view that autism was more difficult to feign than a psychiatric disorder and had experienced situations involving differences in professional opinion as to an individual autism diagnosis.

Research limitations/implications

The survey is limited by a potential sample bias and no information regarding the clinical characteristics of those suspected to have feigned autism. However, these initial findings offer further questions for future research to pursue.

Originality/value

As an initial examination of practicing clinicians’ experiences of suspected feigned autism, the survey highlights the complexities of an autism diagnosis and suggests feigning is a potential clinical scenario. Some guidance as to when to suspect possible feigned autism is also offered, as well as a provisional assessment protocol.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the former chair of the special interest group for autism within the Royal College of Psychiatrists Dr Tom Berney for helping to circulate to members and providing helpful suggestions. The authors are also grateful to all those clinicians who completed the survey.

Citation

Murphy, D. and Broyd, J.G. (2023), "Suspected feigning of autism in adults: a clinician survey, indications and proposed guidelines", Advances in Autism, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 29-41. https://doi.org/10.1108/AIA-11-2021-0044

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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