OAR’s April Health Webinar Series | Organization for Autism Research

Resource Spotlight

In celebration of April’s National Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, OAR is offering a three-part health webinar series. The series will highlight research and resources that address critical issues related to health and health care access, mental health, and suicide prevention. All three webinars are free and include a Q&A session. Those who attend the live webinars will receive certificates of attendance at the end of each webinar.



Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 10:00 AM PDT / 1:00 PM EDT

Presented by Jessica Rast, MPH

Health and health care are critical issues for autistic individuals and can be highly complex. Autistic people often have multiple physical and mental health concerns, frequently see specialists, and use multiple medications. Unfortunately, the current healthcare system often fails to adequately address the needs of people on the spectrum. As a result, there is more frequent need for emergency health care and hospitalization and frequent unmet needs. We must understand health and healthcare needs across the life course so that recommendations can be made about how to improve health and health care at critical points in a person’s life.

This webinar presents findings from the recent National Autism Indicators Report: Health and Health Care, the sixth in a series produced by the Life Course Outcomes Research Program area at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute. The report describes indicators of health and health care for autistic people across the lifespan. Topics covered include overall health, health services, medication, insurance, and accessing services.

Findings highlight that autistic people have many healthcare needs that are not adequately addressed and that their non-physical health concerns, such as mental health, and specialty care needs are more often unmet. The report also highlights the racial and ethnic disparities that persist in health and health care in the United States. Specific concerns include the lack of access to health care transition for youth and the limited numbers of adult health care providers who have autism knowledge.

About the Presenter

Jessica Rast, MPH, is a researcher at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute of Drexel University. She works in the Life Course Outcomes research program area examining questions about the lives, experiences, and services of autistic people. In her role, she catalogues and analyzes existing national data sources to present a national picture of experiences across life domains and the life span. Much of her work focuses on the transition period from adolescence to adulthood. She is particularly interested in health, health care, and models of health service provision, including examining ways primary care can facilitate mental health care in autistic children and adults.

Register today for this webinar!



Wednesday, April 7th at 11:00 AM PDT / 2:00 PM EDT

Presented by Teal Benevides, PhD, MS, OTR/L, and Lisa Morgan, M.Ed, CAS

Autistic adults experience high rates of co-occurring mental health conditions. Our stakeholder-engaged work identified top priorities for research and practice, including the need to address trauma, suicide prevention, and mental health service delivery. This presentation will provide information about the top priorities as well as an introduction to a new toolkit developed by autistic leaders and mental health providers that explains the warning signs of suicide and considerations to take for autistic individuals.


About the Presenters

Teal Benevides, Ph.D., MS, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist, researcher, wife, and mother. Currently, she serves as an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy and in the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Augusta University in Augusta, Ga., and is a member of OAR’s Scientific Council. She is committed to fostering access to services and supports for individuals on the autism spectrum. In this collaborative work with autistic partners, Dr. Benevides aims to identify ways for individuals to achieve better health outcomes and be able to participate in meaningful life activities. She co-leads the Autistic Adults and other Stakeholders Engage Together (AASET) project with Dr. Stephen Shore and a talented community council.

Lisa Morgan, M.Ed, CAS, is the co-chair of the Autism and Suicide Committee of the American Association of Suicidology. She has a master’s degree in the Art of Teaching in Special Education, is a certified autism specialist, and owner of Lisa Morgan Consulting LLC. She is the author of three books and two autism resources for crisis support in the autism community. Morgan is a member of the AASET Community Council.

Register today for this webinar!



Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 11:00 AM PDT / 2:00 PM EDT

Presented by Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH

The Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE) used a community-based participatory research approach to develop a set of online tools meant to improve primary healthcare for adults on the autism spectrum. Dr. Nicolaidis will review the research used to create and evaluate the toolkit and will demonstrate how adult patients, their supporters, and their providers can use the tools to facilitate high quality healthcare.

About the Presenter

Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH, is the co-founder and co-director of the Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE). She is a professor in the School of Social Work at Portland State University. She practices internal medicine and teaches at Oregon Health & Science University. Dr. Nicolaidis is the founding editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal, Autism in Adulthood. As a general internist and health services researcher, Dr. Nicolaidis uses participatory research to improve the health and healthcare of marginalized populations. More broadly, Dr. Nicolaidis works to improve health equity and address social determinants of health.

Register today for this webinar!

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