CME: Autism and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Training Description:

Children and adults with autism and those with Intellectual and developmental disabilities are at higher risk of having comorbid psychiatric disorders than individuals in the general population. Yet, many behavioral health providers feel ill equipped to care for these populations largely due to lack of training and exposure. Stigma can also affect the willingness of institutions and clinicians to provide psychiatric care to people with ASD and those with IDD at all levels of care. Access to inpatient care varies widely across institutions. There is a dearth of specialists and services to support those with ASD/IDD and comorbid psychiatric disorders. Most therapists trained in ASD/IDD or in mental health have little knowledge of or training in each other’s fields. In fact, most child psychiatry trainees see less than 5 outpatients and 10 inpatients with ASD/IDD per year during their 2 years of training. This limited clinical exposure and experience has had important implications regarding families having ready access to services manned by professionals equipped to meet the needs of people with ASD/IDD and comorbid psychiatric disorders.

Crisis care is equally impacted in terms of its ability to serve these populations. Most MCI providers are social workers and LMHCs. Their job is to help youth and their families during behavioral health crises. A significant percentage of youth who experience behavioral health crises are on the autism spectrum and/or have intellectual and developmental disabilities. In fact, children with ASD/IDD were reported to be nine times more likely to receive care in an Emergency Department (ED) due to a psychiatric crisis than children without ASD/IDD diagnosis. When in-patient care is needed, individuals with ASD/IDD typically board (meaning they stay in the emergency room while awaiting a psychiatric hospital bed) in EDs for weeks due to lack of inpatient facilities appropriate to meet their needs. One study of boarding in a pediatric emergency room found that having a diagnosis of ASD was the number one predictor of boarding, followed by having an Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) diagnosis. Unfortunately, crisis care teams and/or members of these teams often lack knowledge about ASD/IDD and about best practice when a person with ASD/IDD has a behavioral crisis resulting in decreased access to well-equipped care teams and communication across systems.

This education program will increase the crisis care teams’ and general providers’ (in the CBHCs) knowledge about ASD and IDD and the unique needs related to caring for these patients for behavioral and emotional concerns and during behavioral health crises. The lectures will also highlight the importance of communication across systems.


After completing this training participants will be able to:

  • Apply best practice care for those with ASD and IDD who have comorbid psychiatric conditions.
  • Use communication across systems involved in caring for those with ASD and IDD.
  • List psychiatric comorbidities, evidence-based interventions, and systems of care for those with ASD/IDD.

Credit Designation Statement:

The University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School-OCME designates this enduring material for a maximum of 4 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.