Looking Beyond Autism:
Recognising Mental Health Disorders

Filmed October 2016 – edited into 6 parts; total 75 minutes

These videos are focused on heightening awareness of the high prevalence of autism across the age span which can mask mental health concerns that require treatment from mental health professionals.

Video Index

Introduction – Deborah Pugh
Background to ASD and Mental Health – Dr. Karen Bopp
Why are Psychiatric Comorbidities Important?– Dr. Anthony Bailey
Role of the Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Dr. Richard Stock
Reflections from the Panel – Dr. Balbinder Gill & Dr. Grace Iarocci
Question Period

Introduction – Deborah Pugh

Background to ASD and Mental Health – Dr. Karen Bopp

Learning Objective: Recognize the prevalence and diversity of children and youth in BC affected by ASD;

In 2015 over 12,000 children in British Columbia received autism funding from the provincial government. ASD is a complex condition with a variety of presentations. The following resources can provide more context:

Reflections from a Pediatrician : Early Diagnosis of Autism – by Dr. Alisa Lipson (This Changed My Practice, Sept 30, 2014)

Prevalence of ASD in British Columbia: See Part 2: Prevalence of Autism from Dr. Karen Bopp’s online video Best Practices in Early Intervention

Why are Psychiatric Comorbidities Important? – Dr. Anthony Bailey

Learning Objective: Recognize that mental-health disorders affect children and youth with ASD disproportionally and failure to treat/refer can have devastating consequences

Learning Objective: Recognize that some children with undiagnosed ASD can present to professionals with mental health disorders and always exclude this disorder in the assessment process;

Children with ASD have very high rates of co-occurring mental health challenges, including ADHD, anxiety disorders and tic disorders prior to reaching adulthood. Frequently it is these conditions and not autism itself that is the most disabling factor in the life of a child with ASD.

York University’s “Research Snapshot” “Rates and Risk Factors of Psychiatric Disorders in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders” summarizes a study that examines the rates, risks and types of psychiatric disorders found in youth with ASD.


Psychiatric comorbidities in Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism: Diagnostic challenges

Dr Vikram Dua speaks eloquently on: Barriers to Diagnosis and Relevance of Comorbidity. See Part 4 from Identifying and Treating Co-occurring Mental Health Challenges in Children with ASD (8 min.)

This article outlines information provided by various research studies on the co-existence of psychiatric disorders with autism, including ADHD, anxiety distorder, OCD and depression.

Role of the Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Dr. Richard Stock

Learning Objective: Identify key individuals involved in the child’s care and obtain information regarding their behavior.

Children with ASD and their families often employ other professionals to work with their children with ASD. These professionals may employ treatment plans such as Behavioral Plan of Intervention (BPI). Key terms and ideas:

Information about BPIs from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).

What is a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA), and what does a good one look like?

More resources on the role of a behavior analyst are available on the Autism Information Database including a link to information on standards for Board Certified Behavior Analysts.

Reflections from the Panel – Dr. Balbinder Gill & Dr. Grace Iarocci

After a diagnosis, the role of the pediatrician is important as a familiar and constant presence. When conducting CBT with children with autism, it can be useful to use more closed questions such a yes/no or a likert scale.

Question Period

Online Mental Health and Autism Project Looking Beyond Autism

Watch the second part of this series: Treating Anxiety, Depression, and OCD

Other Resources:

About Diagnosis in B.C:

An overview of the Diagnostic Process

Chapter 1: The Diagnostic Process – written for community professionals and parents

Team building/ Resources for Families:

Dr. Karen Bopp describes the different roles that people play on a child’s intervention team in her online talk. This talk has some valuable information for professionals seeking to understand the process:

Part 14: Making the Most of your Intervention Team: Hiring Team Members (21 minutes)

Part 15: Making the Most of your Intervention Team: Teamwork and Quality (10 minutes)

Autism In Canada:

For a more detailed look at policy and practice in B.C.:

Review of Child and Youth Mental Health Services in British Columbia

(Oct 2008) Auditor General of B.C.: the Child and Youth Mental Health Plan.