Tools for health professionals

This is part of our Health Hub resources series

Health professionals may access the Internet as a source of information about autism, including how to improve their own delivery of high quality health care to autistic adults. The internet allows health professionals to reach out globally for educational resources and examples of best practice. However, finding relevant and high quality information may be difficult for health professionals if they are time poor or unfamiliar with autism-related websites.

This resource lists available online resources that aim to upskill health professionals to work more effectively with autistic adults. Our purpose is to provide a brief overview of online resources for health professionals who want to build their understanding of and enhance their skills related to providing health care to autistic adults. The aim is to equip health professionals with information that leads to the provision of high quality health-related care for autistic adults.

This resource was developed through the Autism CRC project Improving health and wellbeing for autistic adults. The project aims to enhance health and wellbeing for autistic adults and their families. It also focuses on providing better information to general practitioners, psychiatrists and other health professionals about the physical and mental health issues frequently associated with autism.

This resource includes a list of websites identified, a brief description of each and their indicators of quality.

Online resources about Autism Spectrum Disorders for health professionals
Online resources about Autism Spectrum Disorders for health professionals

A snapshot of available online resources for adults and health professionals.

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This guide was produced in December 2014 by Dr Kate van Dooren, Ms Cindy Nicollet and Professor Nick Lennox.

  • Dr van Dooren holds a PhD in Public Health and is undertaking her postdoctoral fellowship through the Autism CRC and QCIDD.
  • Cindy Nicollet is a psychologist undertaking her PhD through Autism CRC and QCIDD.
  • Professor Nick Lennox is the Director of QCIDD and Autism CRC project leader of Improving health and wellbeing for autistic adults.

For more information about this project, please contact Dr Kate van Dooren at k.vandooren@uq.edu.au.

What we did

We performed an online search on Google using keywords related to adults, autism and health to find resources for health professionals regarding autistic adults. We read all relevant websites and briefly assessed the quality of the material they presented using three criteria, including whether:

  • the date of publication,
  • nominated date of review were provided on the site, and
  • the site listed information sources used in its development.

We didn’t include formal courses (for example, online training courses offering continuing professional development points) in this review, because they often require face-to-face time, a time commitment, payment or registration with an association or organisation.

What we found

There are far fewer websites for health professionals about adults with autism than exist about children with autism. Locating the websites required careful reading and review, which would be time-consuming and burdensome for health professionals. Few sites listed the sources of information or date of production which makes it difficult to evaluate the usefulness, relevance or timeliness of information provided. However, some good sites do exist, particularly in relation to upskilling health professionals around the changes they can make to the physical environment, communication and attitudes when working with autistic adults.

What this means

Autistic adults have the need for, and the right to access, appropriate, accessible, acceptable health care that helps them to achieve the highest quality of life. But, health professionals receive very little specific training or professional development in working with autistic adults, so delivering a high standard of care to this group may be difficult. Some online help is available to health professionals, but it is difficult to find and to quality assess. Information specific to Australians with autism is scarce. Very little specific advice for health professionals who work with adults with autism is offered. Importantly, none of the resources we found were produced by adults themselves. There is an urgent need for more:

  • specific information for health professionals,
  • information that is co-produced by adults, and
  • Australian-specific information.

Next steps

As part of Program 3 of the Autism CRC, our team will use the information presented here, as well as discussions with autistic adults and health professionals, to develop an online suite of health and wellbeing tools for autistic adults and the health professionals who support them. We are also working with autistic adults to conduct a more detailed quality analysis of these websites and to develop an easy-to-use tool for assessing the quality of online information.