A Systematic Review of Mental Health Interventions for ASD: Characterizing Interventions, Intervention Adaptations, and Implementation Outcomes
Youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have high rates of co-occurring mental health needs that necessitate mental health interventions. Given the unique clinical characteristics of youth with ASD, there have been significant efforts to adapt and test mental health interventions for this population. Yet, characterization of the nature and types of interventions adaptations is limited, especially across the wide range of interventions tested for youth with ASD with a focus on implementation factors. Additionally, understanding how these interventions may be implemented in community services is limited. The aims of this systematic review are to characterize the (1) types of interventions tested for co-occurring mental health conditions for youth with ASD; (2) adaptations to mental health interventions for use with youth with ASD; and (3) implementation strategies, outcomes, and determinants of mental health interventions to inform their translation to community service settings. Eighty-three articles testing interventions targeting mental health symptoms in youth with ASD that included implementation factors in analyses were reviewed. The Stirman et al. (2013; 2019) FRAME adaptation, Powell et al. (2012;2015) implementation strategies, and Proctor et al. (2011) implementation outcomes taxonomies were applied to characterize the nature and types of adaptations for use with youth with ASD and types of implementation strategies, outcomes, and determinants used, when available, respectively. Of the interventions examined, the majority (64.1%) were originally designed to target youth mental health concerns and were then adapted to be used with ASD. The most common adaptations included those to the intervention content, particularly adding elements with tailoring or refining aspects of the intervention while maintaining core functions. Half of the articles described at least one implementation strategy used during intervention testing. Fidelity and acceptability were the most frequently examined implementation outcomes, with some examination of appropriateness and feasibility. Nineteen percent of articles described implementation determinants (i.e. barriers/facilitators) of these implementation outcomes. The common adaptations for ASD provide direction for future intervention development and for training community therapists. Further examination, specification, and reporting of implementation strategies and outcomes within ongoing efforts to adapt and interventions to meet the co-occurring mental health needs of youth ASD are needed to facilitate their translation to community settings. Areas for future research as well as clinical implications are discussed.
Dickson, K. S., Lind, T., Jobin, A., Kinnear, M., Lok, H., & Brookman-Frazee, L. (2021). A Systematic Review of Mental Health Interventions for ASD: Characterizing Interventions, Intervention Adaptations, and Implementation Outcomes. Adm Policy Ment Health. doi:10.1007/s10488-021-01133-7