Advancing Mental Health Supports for Autistic Postsecondary Students: A Call for Research

Gabrielle B. Gunin, Amy Gravino, Vanessa H. Bal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research has documented elevated rates of co-occurring depression and anxiety in autistic adults, with some noting particularly high rates for autistic students enrolled in postsecondary education (PSE). Difficulty coping with the stressors that accompany daily life as they navigate college campuses may contribute to development or exacerbation of co-occurring conditions. Autistic students have reported that depression, anxiety, and stress interfere with their success in college, but that they have difficulty identifying and accessing the supports that they need. Though many postsecondary institutions have established programs that provide academic supports to autistic students, few programs directly support mental health and wellness. Recently, stakeholders have advocated for mental health to be prioritized in adult autism research. We suggest that a specific focus on autistic students in PSE is warranted and provide a brief overview of the relatively limited literature in this area. To inform development of mental health services and supports that will be both accessible and acceptable to the range of autistic students attending PSE, research is recommended in four areas: factors positively and negatively affecting mental health, types of supports, outreach, and on-campus training and education. It will be essential for researchers to establish community partnerships with autistic individuals to inform study design and specific research questions. This will ensure that autistic voices guide development of supports that will foster positive mental health in PSE and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-36
Number of pages7
JournalAutism in Adulthood
Volume3
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Keywords

  • autism
  • mental health
  • postsecondary education
  • young adult

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