Meeting the mental health needs of children and young people with autism spectrum disorder – a collaboration between health and education

Mental health problems occur at far higher rates in young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and cause substantial impairment, impacting on both an individual’s and family’s quality of life (van Steensel et al, 2012), as well as resulting in significantly higher (4 times as high) societal costs than anxiety alone (van Steensel et al, 2013).

Educational placement breakdown due to the social, academic and sensory demands of a school environment is not uncommon. Additionally, suicidal ideation and behaviour occurs at higher rates in the ASD population than the typically developing population (Dickerson Mayes et al, 2012). As ASD affects over 1% of the general population (Baird et al, 2006), this poses a significant yet frequently neglected public health concern.

Dr Ann Ozsivadjian was awarded a small grant which enabled her to provide a service to schools over a 6-month period:

  • This included training events for education staff on topics including: mental health presentations in autism spectrum disorders, suicide, and an introduction to cognitive behaviour therapy.
  • She also ran an evidence-based group intervention in both a primary and secondary school, concurrently training school staff to deliver the intervention in a rolling programme.
  • Finally, she provided consultation to staff working with young people with ASD in distress, within a school setting.
    Qualitative and quantitative data was collected before the group interventions, as well as the training events.

The quantitative data is yet to be analysed, but initial impressions from the qualitative information indicates good satisfaction with the services delivered, as well as some reported improvements.

Contact: Dr Ann Ozsivadjian