Title: Characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorders who received services through community mental health centers.
Authors: Stephanie A. Bryson, Susan K. Corrigan, Thomas P. Mcdonald, and Cheryl Holmes
Source: Autism 2008 12: 65-82. (January).

Note: Co-morbidity refers to the presence of two conditions simultaneously. For example, depression has high co-morbidity with anxiety, since often people with depression also have anxiety. In research, we use the term to refer to the presence of two separate diagnoses simultaneously.

NOTE 2: This is such an interesting paper that I decided to break it into at least two review posts.

This is a basic epidemiological study from the University of Kansas that gives us some interesting data about co-morbid psychiatric disorders in children with ASDs. What services and diagnoses are obtained by children with autism, Asperger’s, PDD NOS and other childhood developmental disorders? In order to answer this question the authors examined community mental health records of 26 community centers in Kansas, through the use of a new electronic health record system that allows for the sharing of medical information between the different health centers(the great importance of such system and its possible implications for privacy violations is a very interesting topic, but a better match for a different blog). The researchers compared children who in 2004 received a diagnosis of Autism with children who received a diagnosis of a different ASD (PDD-NOS, Asperger’s). The two groups were then compared in a number of demographic factors, service use, and co-morbid diagnoses. The first amazing finding: Using very conservative estimates of autism rates (5.5 in 1000 CDC), the authors found that the Kansas community mental health system served less than 3% of children with Autism in the State and less than 15% of children experiencing other types of ASD. What happened to the 97+% of children with autism who did not receive services through the community mental health system? The authors indicated that it is possible that most children with autism in Kansas receive adequate services through the school or other State systems, so they have no need to seek services through the community mental health system. It is also possible that these children receive services privately (private ABA, therapists, evaluations, etc). Finally, a number of these children may simply not be receiving services at all. Unfortunately, the data in this paper do not help us clarify these issues. The data only tell us that less than 3% of children with autism received services through the community mental health system in the State. Is the community mental health system simply underutilized by parents of children with ASDs? Or is it simply that this system does not meet the needs of children with ASDs so that essential services are actually obtained somewhere else?

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3 Responses to Autism, Services, and Co-morbidity: Insights from Kansas. PART I

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have only a limited geographic area to judge from, but as a Speech Pathologist specializing in the treatment of children with ASD, I would love to make referrals to a competent mental health service but no specialists in my area seem 1)to have adequate training or knowledge regarding ASD 2) willing to offer much beyond rather useless assessment procedures or 3) willing to offer anything beyond drug therapy. Parents flock to competence.

  2. You bring another interesting point. It is possible that these families under-utilize community mental health services simply because these agencies do not offer appropriate services. I think it is reasonable to expect a significant increase in community services utilization if the agencies started to offer ABA sessions.

  3. maria says:

    Kids are doing better today than in the past.They’re more able to identify when they need help, they aren’t burdened by the fear of stigma if they decide to seek help, and they have more and better treatment options than ever before…

    Kansas Drug Treatment

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