Prof Nicholas Lennox is lead researcher for Program 3.3 of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), the world’s first cooperative research effort focused on autism across the lifespan. Program 3.3 aims to develop resources that equip adults with autism to address their health needs and assist health professionals to better understand and respond to those needs. Specifically, we will be providing two evidence-based interventions for adults on the spectrum and the health professionals who support them: an adapted CHAP for adults with intellectual disability who are on the autism spectrum; and an anxiety intervention.

We have undertaken:

  1. a scoping review of online resources for health professionals;
  2. a survey of health professionals' training needs; and
  3. interviews and focus groups with health professionals about improving their interactions with adults with ASC.

Twenty-one autism-related websites with information for health professionals were reviewed; some provided quality information about adapting physical environments, communication and attitudes when working with adults with ASC. We surveyed 78 health professionals with 83%, strongly agreeing or agreeing that they would like more training specific to adults with ASC, particularly in behaviour management, mental health and communication. We also conducted 5 focus groups and 10 qualitative interviews with 32 health professionals revealing strategies that could be incorporated into practice.

These findings will lead to the creation of useful, useable tools that contribute to real-world improvements in health and wellbeing for a too-often overlooked group. A visual snapshot of the review of online resources for health professionals is now available on the Autism CRC Health Hub at www.autismcrc.com.au.

Other research projects being undertaken through the CRC include:

  • A survey of the oral health needs of adults on the autism spectrum. In collaboration with UWA and the Telethon Kids Institute. We are surveying adults on the spectrum or their substitute decision makers, in depth, about their oral health needs.
  • Inclusive Research Practice Guidelines. These world first guidelines will encourage researchers to be inclusive of adults on the spectrum throughout their research processes. Six guides and checklists were coproduced with adults on the spectrum, and are freely available at www.autismcrc.com.au.
  • Research Academy. The first Researching Autism Together workshop was held in October 2015, bringing together adults on the spectrum and researchers, and equipping them with the skills and knowledge to engage in research about autism, together. 
  • A systematic review of gastrointestinal issues for people on the autism spectrum, in collaboration with La Trobe University.
  • An Honours project looking at the experiences of adults on the spectrum with food, and the barriers and enablers to enjoyable eating using qualitative methods.