People with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders may also have mental health problems. There is little in the literature on the mental health needs of such adults.
The researchers in this study were interested in developing the evidence base to enable a clearer understanding of the kinds of service responses that might be needed.
They set out to compare adults with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disroders who were in receipt of specialist mental health services with a group of people with autism spectrum disorders.
They used case records from a clinic-based population in South East London. They measured health and social functioning with the Health of the Nation Outcome Scale for people with Learning Disability (HoNOS-LD).
They found 371 people using the service who were in receipt of specialist mental health support eligible for the study. 117 people (32%) had a clinical diagnosis of learning disability and autism spectrum disorder.
They found that those people in the study group with autism spectrum disorder were younger, and more likely to be male. They were less likely to live independently and their learning disability was more severe than the comparison group.
The group with learning disability and autism spectrum disorder were less likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, but their social and health functioning was lower as indicated by the scores on the HoNOS-LD
The authors conclude that a significant proportion of adults with learning disabilities using specialist mental health services also have a clinical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and that their mental health needs are different to those without autism.
They recommend a “more personalized approach to service delivery with a focus on improving social functioning and behavioral impairments”.
Health and Social Functioning of Adults With Intellectual Disability and Autism, Underwood, L et al., in Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 9: 147–150