Many Autistic Teens Use School Mental-Health Services

More support needed when they make transition out of high school, researchers say

SUNDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Many teens with autism rely on school-based mental health services, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data from a 10-year study of more than 920 adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder who were enrolled in special education. The participants were aged 13 to 17 when the study began in 2000.

More than 46 percent of the teens with autism used a mental health service in the past year for behavioral issues and other conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Of those, 49 percent used mental health services at their school.

Black teens and those from lower income families were more likely to use school-based mental health services, said the researchers at Washington University in St. Louis.

The findings, published in the August issue of Psychiatric Services, show the need to make transition plans for mental health services as teens with autism leave high school, said study author Sarah Narendorf, a social work doctoral candidate.

"Those that have accessed services at school are especially at risk for service discontinuities as they lose access to services through the school," she said in a university news release. "This is especially important for African-American and low-income students who are more likely to get their services in the school setting."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Washington University in St. Louis, news release, Aug. 22, 2011

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