Autism and Mental Health: The Role of Occupational Therapy

Anne V. Kirby, Lisa Morgan, Claudia Hilton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Research has indicated a high prevalence of mental health problems among autistic people, with elevated rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidality. The profession of occupational therapy has its roots in mental health and can offer a unique focus on occupation to support the mental health needs of autistic clients. In this Guest Editorial we introduce articles for this special issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy related to autism and mental health and use the Person–Environment–Occupation Model. The articles offer insights into how interactions among person, environment, and occupation factors affect the mental health of autistic populations and demonstrate ways that mental health can be supported through occupational engagement. Opportunities to support the mental health of autistic people include promoting engagement in meaningful activities, supporting individual strengths, and bolstering clients’ sense of self and identification with their autistic identity. Future research is needed to uncover and test interventions to support autistic clients and should reflect cultural humility and participatory approaches. We chose to use identity-first language (rather than person-first language) to describe the autistic community in this Guest Editorial out of respect for common community member preferences and in accordance with recommendations for anti-ableist language use (Bottema-Beutel et al., 2021). Decisions about language for each article in this special issue were made by the respective authors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7702170010
JournalAmerican Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Occupational Therapy


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