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What is the Adult Autism Spectrum Program?

support group patients

Awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in adults has grown in recent years, but services for adults have lagged far behind the needs of this population. Autism is generally characterized by social and communication difficulties, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors.

The Penn Behavioral Health Adult Autism Spectrum Program, led by psychiatrist Edward S. Brodkin, MD, is raising the bar on services for adults by providing customized, comprehensive consultations, diagnoses, and treatment planning.

The goal of this program is to help adolescents and adults and their families to get the correct diagnosis, an optimal treatment plan, and the appropriate resources that will help patients reach their own goals and their full potential for a high quality of life. 

This program provides consultations not only for people who already have autism diagnoses, but also for adults who may never have received a diagnosis in childhood, but suspect that they may be on the spectrum. While many people on the autism spectrum are diagnosed in early childhood, other individuals with subtler symptoms may not be diagnosed until later in life. Getting a proper diagnosis can offer major benefits and relief for a person who may be struggling. 

Adults on the autism spectrum commonly have co-occurring psychiatric issues, such as anxiety, depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Therefore, it can be very useful to have a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation, such as the one that this program provides.

This program also provides treatment recommendations, helps patients and their families navigate treatment, acts as a liaison to primary providers, and suggests modifications to treatment plans if need be.

The Adult Autism Spectrum Program is dedicated to providing customized consultations on a wide range of issues for patients (age 16 and up) and their families across the entire spectrum, including:

  • Diagnosis
  • Transition to adulthood
  • Psychiatric issues related to ASD (e.g. anxiety, depression, ADHD)
  • Development of treatment plans and support plans, including medication, psychotherapy, and support plans
  • Modifying ongoing treatment plans to better address goals
  • Building social, communication, and adaptive skills
  • Interfering behaviors
  • Educational issues
  • Workplace and vocational issues
  • Social and relationship issues
  • Issues facing adult family members or couples

What type of patients do you see?

This program sees many different types of patients from late adolescents to adults (age 16 and up) who have, or may possibly have, a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. These disorders may also be called: 

  • Autism
  • Asperger syndrome
  • Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD)
  • Closely related diagnoses such as Social Communication Disorder.   

What services do you provide?

The needs of adults with ASD may range from intensive care to building independent living skills and confidence in navigating the social world. That’s why consultations provided in this program are tailored to each individual, given the wide spectrum of autism.  

The Penn Medicine Adult Autism Spectrum Program provides consultation for adults with autism that will focus on the following areas:

  • Diagnosis (including new diagnostic evaluations)
  • Treatment
  • Transition to Adulthood
  • Supporting Families or Caregivers 
  • Social Interaction
  • Relationship Issues 
  • Skill Development

The consultations typically include:

  • Interview and evaluation by Dr. Brodkin
  • Administration, scoring, and interpretation of assessment questionnaires, as indicated
  • Review of prior diagnostic or treatment reports
  • Formulation and discussion of treatment and support plan
  • Referrals to needed care and information
  • A written report summarizing the findings from the consultation, including diagnosis and treatment recommendations

After the initial consultation, Dr. Brodkin may also provide follow-up consultations, when needed.  In certain situations, Dr. Brodkin may offer some follow up sessions to work on developing skills of social attunement.  At this time, the Adult Autism Spectrum Program typically does not provide primary psychiatric/psychological care or medication management, but the Program can act as a liaison and consultant to your main care providers..

Why is there a need for a program like this?

Most available clinical services related to autism focus on children, but autism typically continues into adulthood.  The Penn Medicine Adult Autism Spectrum Program is one of the very few clinical programs devoted to adults on the autism spectrum. 

Many adults have struggled with various issues in their lives, including difficulties navigating social situations, in managing sensory sensitivities, and in managing strong emotions.  Adults and their families may not know where to go for a diagnostic evaluation or treatment consultation. Most available clinical services related to autism focus on children, and finding a clinical program focused on the adult autism spectrum can be challenging.  

For adolescents or young adults with an autism spectrum diagnosis who are facing new issues of adulthood (e.g. finishing school, finding employment, workplace issues, developing social relationships), it can be helpful to get a consultation and a set of treatment recommendations from a program focused on the issues of adults.

For individuals on the autism spectrum who are facing new issues related to middle or later adulthood (e.g. navigating work, relationships, and family life), getting a consultation can also be very helpful in developing a plan and identifying resources to best address these issues.  

How can I find out more about the program, and make an appointment?

You can visit the Adult Autism Spectrum Program for more information or contact the clinic coordinator at 215-746-4100 for more information about the services or to schedule an appointment.

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