Increasing the Awareness, Screening, Identification and Treatment of Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder  

Principal Investigator: Judy Reaven, PhD

What is the goal of the project?

In May 2020, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) launched a pilot program called Children’s Mental Health Champions, through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  Six champions nationwide were selected in the first year (2020-2021), and this number grew to 12 in the second year of funding (2021-2022). The intent of this project was for Champions to act as “community change agents” and improve many practices related to child mental health including the implementation of effective strategies for mental health promotion. Judy Reaven has been the Colorado Mental Health Champion for the past two years.    

What is involved in the project?

The purpose of the first year of the project was to complete a survey of parents/caregivers, professionals and self-advocates to identify common mental health symptoms as well as barriers to accessing care for autistic youth.  The mental health symptoms most commonly identified were: anxiety, outbursts/meltdowns, and problems with attention and concentration.  The primary barrier to accessing evaluations and appropriate treatment was the lack of trained providers.  Building on the work from year one, the goals of the second year were twofold: 1) Create a website that provides information for families on the signs, symptoms and best practice interventions for youth with ASD and co-occurring mental health conditions; and 2) Provide a series of trainings to school districts/school personnel on topics related to the screening, identification and intervention for autistic students with mental health conditions. 

What have you found so far (or expect to find)?

Along with LEND trainee, Courtney Paisley, Ph.D., we created a website to help others identify the signs and symptoms of co-occurring mental health conditions in autistic youth. Intervention suggestions for families to try at home are included.

Resources developed include the following web pages:

Mental Health and ASD 

Gender and Sexual Diversity

In addition, over 380 individuals attended talks, webinars and trainings related to the identification, screening and intervention of mental health conditions for youth with ASD in schools.  

What are the implications of the study?

There are now web pages available to families and providers who are interested in learning more about mental health conditions for autistic youth. Numerous school providers have participated in trainings related to the identification and treatment of mental health symptoms in autistic students, thus increasing the potential for early detection and appropriate treatment for these students.  



JFK Partners (SOM)

CU Anschutz

Education II South

13121 East 17th Avenue

Mail Stop C234

Aurora, CO 80045


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