Many students with autism leave high school without the preparation and connections needed to achieve independence and engage meaningfully in their communities. A major barrier to independent functioning is untreated psychiatric conditions. Most individuals with autism transitioning to adulthood struggle with mental health problems, yet traditional mental health services generally do not meet their needs.
The study team interviewed 22 adults with autism, 44 community mental health clinicians, and 11 community mental health agency leaders to explore ways to improve community mental health centers as treatment options for adults with autism and co-occurring psychiatric conditions. Participants identified clinician, client, and systems-level barriers related to providing quality mental healthcare to adults with autism. Most of the reported barriers involved clinicians’ limited knowledge, lack of experience, poor competence, and low confidence working with adults with autism. All three stakeholder groups also discussed the problematic disconnect between the mental health and developmental disabilities systems, which can result in adults with autism being turned away from mental health services.
The presenter will discuss future efforts to train clinicians to work more effectively with adults with autism and to increase coordination between the mental health and developmental disabilities systems.
NOTE: 1.5 APA CEUs available (can also be used for SW)
Brenna Maddox, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and postdoctoral research fellow at the Penn Center for Mental Health. Dr. Maddox’s clinical work and research program focus on the assessment and treatment of commonly co-occurring difficulties within autism, such as anxiety and depression. Her postdoctoral research, under the mentorship of Dr. David Mandell, focuses on improving community mental health services for adults with autism.