Youth & Young Adults with Autism Preparing for Independence

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Youth & Young Adults with Autism Preparing for Independence

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Bring your lunch and learn about Dr. Brenna Maddox’s research that focuses on young adults with autism and co-occurring psychiatric conditions. Dr. Maddox is a licensed clinical psychologist and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research.

Students with autism are at a high risk of leaving 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. Many individuals with autism transitioning to adulthood struggle with mental health problems, yet traditional mental health services generally do not meet their needs. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research have worked closely with individuals with autism and their family members, community mental health clinicians, and community mental health agency leaders to explore ways to improve community mental health centers as treatment options for adolescents and adults with autism and co-occurring psychiatric conditions. Commonly reported barriers include clinicians’ limited knowledge, lack of experience, and low confidence working with individuals with autism. Participants also highlighted challenges navigating between the mental health and developmental disabilities systems. The presenter will discuss steps that clinicians can take to prepare adolescents with autism for the transition to adulthood, as well as ways to modify traditional mental health services to optimally benefit individuals with autism.

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