Health services for Australian autistic adults: Commentary on "The experiences, views and needs of health professionals who provide care to adults on the autism spectrum"

Published May 2020
Abstract
Internationally we know that autistic adults have increased rates of physical and mental health problems (Croen et al., 2015; Jones et al., 2015), mortality (Hirvikoski et al., 2016) and suicide (Cassidy & Rodgers, 2017; Hedley et al., 2017). Autistic adults also face significant barriers to accessing healthcare (Raymaker et al., 2016). These findings also apply to adults with intellectual disability who are on the autism spectrum. Although limited (Cashin et al., 2016), Australian research to date has largely mirrored international findings on premature mortality (Hwang et al., 2019), high rates of co-occurring psychiatric conditions (Arnold et al., 2019) and high rates of psychotropic prescribing including for off-label behaviour management purposes (Cvejic et al., 2018) in autistic adults. Such findings suggest that research and advocacy into Australian health services for autistic adults is needed.

Urbanowicz et al. (2020) surveyed healthcare providers using an Australian adaptation of an instrument previously used in a US study of N=346 primary care physicians (Bruder et al., 2012). Employing purposive snowball sampling starting from social media and their existing professional networks, the study sample was predominately based in Queensland, composed of a variety of health and allied professionals, the slight majority being allied health. The survey addressed topic areas including the characteristics of autistic adults attending the healthcare provider, and the providers’ perceived knowledge, competence and training needs. Over 80% of respondents wanted further training in autism. Additionally, 60% of respondents reported feeling competent, knowledgeable, or confident in providing care to this population. The proportion reporting perceived competence was higher in disability specific settings (76%) compared to mainstream settings (46%).
Citation
Arnold, S.R.C., Higgins, J. & Trollor, J.N. (2020). Health services for Australian autistic adults: Commentary on "The experiences, views and needs of health professionals who provide care to adults on the autism spectrum". Research and Practice in Intellectual and Developmental Disability, early online. doi: 10.1080/23297018.2020.1753566

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