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Ongoing Clinical Care

Finding an adult provider to continue medical care is essential for adults with autism, but can be somewhat difficult as most autism specialists are pediatricians and usually stop providing care for individuals over 21 years old. Unlike pediatricians, adult providers generally don’t have very much experience, if any, in caring for adults with autism, but it is possible to find an adult primary care provider (PCP) who can provide quality care for adults on the autism spectrum.

Start by talking to your pediatrician early, well before transition age about possible adult providers. Ask your pediatrician for the names of clinicians or PCPs in your area who may be a good fit for you or your young adult. Schedule an appointment to meet with recommended PCPs to make sure that you and/or your young adult feel comfortable with this person and the office setting. Be sure to discuss current medical concerns as well. You want to look for someone who will treat you or your young adult as an individual and not assume that every behavior or medical problem is because of autism. Make sure the new PCP understands your concerns and is willing to work with and or your young adult to work around communication, social, sensory, and behavioral difficulties that may interfere with care. Feeling comfortable with a new PCP takes time, but establishing this relationship before 22 years of age will make this process easier.

Once you have identified a new PCP, request that your pediatrician communicate directly with this clinician to provide a complete review of medical history as well as a current problem list. Also, keep in mind that once an individual is 18 years of age, parents legally cannot manage or discuss care with providers without legal guardianship.

Adults with autism have significantly more medical and psychiatric problems than other adults. They have higher rates of depression, anxiety, diabetes, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, high blood pressure, obesity, and sleep disorders. It is very important to identify an adult PCP who is able and willing to manage these types of problems in a compassionate and professional way, taking into consideration the special needs of adults with autism.

Finding adult providers for individuals with autism can be challenging, but by starting the process early, working closely with your pediatrician to identify a provider, and establishing a good relationship with the new PCP before age 22 can make the transition a smooth process.

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