Community & Mental Health Support for Adults with Autism
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about 78 million people worldwide. Individuals impacted by autism spectrum disorder are a highly heterogeneous group of people who, from a young age, show difficulty in social communication and demonstrate repetitive sensory-motor behaviours.
One of the main struggles that adults with autism face is social isolation. There is a longstanding history in our society of segregating and isolating individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. Though many large institutions have shut down, and more autistic individuals are living in the community, social isolation continues to be an important struggle.
Social isolation can occur due to a variety of factors:
● The norms present within western culture make it difficult for individuals to be accepted
● Stigma and lack of understanding
● Within the education system resources are not always present to ensure inclusion in the classrooms
● Within the workforce the necessary considerations and adaptations for are often not possible
● Within relationships communication difficulties and underdeveloped social skills can become a barrier
● Lack of funding to support families
● Mental health concerns
Studies show that individuals with autism are impacted by mental health concerns at rates equal or higher to those of the general population. This includes depression, social anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, rumination etc.
Though there is a great need for mental health support, access to appropriate therapeutic services can be limited. This is due to various factors such as lack of funding, lack of research and neurodiversity not being well understood, as well as the development potential in these individuals not being widely recognized.
One way to address the social isolation that autistic people face is through community supports. There are agencies looking to assist autistic adults in Ottawa in living fulfilling, connected lives. There are also agencies looking to support the larger community in welcoming people with autism. Here are some of these resources.
For employers looking to become inclusive in their hiring practices:
For adults with disabilities looking to find an inclusive employer:
For adults with autism:
For adults with an intellectual disability (some individuals may be eligible):
Mental Health Supports
CMAP Health is one mental health resource that can offer support. It is important to CMAP Health to ensure an inclusive space that recognizes neurodiversity and offers evidence-based treatment to adults with autism who are experiencing mental health concerns. We want to support individuals to be able to meet their potential and to be able to engage in their lives!
There is an emerging body of research supporting the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with adults with autism. CBT looks to help individuals understand the connection between their thoughts, feelings and actions as well as to learn new skills and ways of navigating life. With all clients, therapy is individualized and adapted to suit the person’s goals and needs. Additional modifications to CBT are made as needed, offering attention to skill building, problem solving and a particular attention to sensory needs. Our therapists in training are also a great resource for people who can benefit from additional support in between sessions. We also recognize the importance of multidisciplinary collaborative support.
About the author:
Tara McRae is a registered Social Worker (RSW) and psychotherapist at CMAP Health. Tara holds a Masters Degree in Social Work, undergraduate in psychology and minor in social work from the University of Ottawa, which she has used to support adults in various settings over the last 10 years. To find out more about Tara you can view her profile.