Pathways in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Mental Health Risk and Resilience (Series 3 of 3)

Last modified by Rachel Van Woezik on 2021/06/15 15:32

As many as 40-70% of autistic children, youth and adults experience significant mental health difficulties, including anxiety, depression, suicidality and conduct problems. As mental health clinicians and researchers on the “Pathways in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)” team, we wanted to know:

- What are the protective factors that seem to strengthen mental health over time in the lives of children and youth?
- Can we identify early warning signs and risk factors that will help children get more timely and effective help for mental health problems like anxiety, depression and challenging behaviour?

The Pathways in ASD Study is one of the largest studies in the world to follow preschool-aged children diagnosed ASD into their adolescent years. Families, front-line caregivers and policymakers helped design this study, which includes children and families across 5 different Canadian provinces.

In this webinar, Dr. Connor Kerns (psychologist) and Dr. Terry Bennett (psychiatrist) will review findings from a subset of studies focused on the mental health of children and youth over time. We will describe how mental health challenges such as anxiety, mood, hyperactivity and aggression appear to unfold as reported by families in this study. We will also identify key child-, family- and other factors that appear to influence mental health as children grow up.

Findings from large-scale follow-up studies of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can inform the development of mental health interventions in new and important ways. Key take-aways for parents/caregivers, front-line mental health workers and policymakers will include:
1) The identification of actionable risk and protective factors implicated in the mental health and well-being of children and youth with ASD
2) A review of linked evidence-based interventions
3) Discussion of promising future directions aimed at improving the mental health & well-being of autistic children & youth and their families

Following this webinar, participants will:

  • Identify risk and protective factors implicated in the mental health and well-being of children and youth with ASD from the “Pathways” Study

  • Name evidence-based interventions for supporting mental health concerns in this population

  • Understand where there are knowledge gaps regarding the mental health of autistic youth

Primary audience(s):

  • Families and youth

  • Front-line service providers

  • Middle managers and senior leaders

Secondary audience(s):

  • Policy makers

  • Researchers

  • School mental health providers

  • Dr. Connor Kerns: Dr. Kerns has conducted and published studies on broad array of topics including the role of paternal age in ASD risk, the co-occurrence of childhood psychopathologies, and differential predictors of CBT efficacy for child anxiety. Her present research focuses on the overlap, assessment and treatment of anxiety and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Her ongoing projects aim to explore the varied presentation and phenomenology of anxiety in ASD and the implications of this variation for effective anxiety measurement and treatment. Dr. Kerns is also preparing to extend this work to the understudied area of traumatic events and their sequelae in youth with ASD. Another area of interest is the use of technology to facilitate the dissemination of empirically based treatments. Dr. Kerns is currently working to develop cost-effective, computer-assisted CBTs for youth with ASD and anxiety, interactive social stories to improve skill generalization in ASD, and video-enhanced ASD screening and educational tools. Her long terms goals include developing a parsimonious model of psychiatric co-occurrence to inform the design and dissemination of cross-diagnostic assessments and treatments that will improve child well-being and development.
  • Dr. Terry Bennett: Teresa (Terry) Bennett is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a member of the Offord Centre for Child Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University. Dr. Bennett is a graduate of McMaster University’s Arts and Science, Medical and Psychiatric Residency programs. More recently at McMaster, she completed a PhD in Health Research Methodology, funded by a fellowship training award from CIHR, for which she was awarded a dissertation award from the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR). Her PhD research focused on longitudinal “cascade” models of development in young children with ASD.

    Dr. Bennett is a co-investigator on the multi-site national “Pathways in ASD Study” (PI: P. Szatmari), and the 2014 Ontario Child Health Survey (OCHS: PIs M. Boyle and K. Georgiades). She is also the local qualified investigator for a multi-site randomized controlled study of medication targeting core symptoms of ASD (PI: E. Anagnostou). Her clinical and research interests include children and families with ASD and neurodevelopmental disabilities, as well as pathways in child social development and mental health – how children’s social brains and social worlds influence, and are influenced by, their mental health.
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Created by Logan Green on 2021/05/28 23:52