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THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: Identifying and Addressing Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues in Students with AS

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

Since June of this year, TJS Kristen Kaiser and Nicole Pearson have been on the speaking circuit about the leading thinking and research about mental health and individuals with ASD. The duo has spoken at the Colorado Department of Education 1st Annual Autism Conference - June 4, 2019 in Fort Collins; at the Affective Needs Conference - Oct. 4th, Denver; and most recently at the Colorado Society of School Psychologists - Nov. 7th, Vail. Kristen and Nicole also addressed The Living Spectrum, a large parent support group in September on the same topic.


Their presentation focuses on findings that the prevalence of co-occurring mental health issues amongst individuals with ASD is four to six times higher than the general population, with research estimating that of those with ASD, between 40% and 74% will meet criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders. Common disorders include anxiety, depression, ADHD and phobias. The research shows how these co-occurring conditions manifest differently in individuals with ASD. Considerations for differential diagnosis, how to deliver mental health interventions to this population and the interventions and curricula available to address these issues in school settings were explored so that attendees could take away the following:  

  • An understanding of the most common types of co-occurring mental health disorders among students with ASD

  • An understanding about how these co-occurring disorders manifest differently in individuals with ASD

  • Greater familiarity with some of the assessments available for differential diagnosis, and

  • What evidence-based strategies, interventions and curricula are available to address co-occurring mental health issues in students with ASD at school. 


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