Working with autistic clients

Prof. Will Mandy & Dr Richard Pender

Thursday, 19 January 2023


There is growing recognition of an autism mental health crisis. Autistic people across the lifespan and of all genders experience increased prevalence of a range of mental health conditions, leading to reduced quality of life and premature mortality (Lai et al., 2019). In addition, autistic people have described negative experiences of accessing mental health support (Camm-Crosbie et al., 2019). In recognition of this, the NHS Long-Term plan highlights better care for autistic people, including mental health care, as a priority (2019).

Challenges in routine clinical practice include recognising possible undiagnosed autism, and distinguishing autism characteristics from co-occurring mental health conditions. Autistic people report distinct mental health-related experiences, including masking or camouflaging of autism traits, meltdowns and shutdowns, and autistic burnout (Hull, Petrides & Mandy, 2020). Also, while evidence-based adapted psychological therapies are effective for this client group, clinicians commonly lack confidence in making adaptations (Cooper, Loades & Russell, 2018). To address these needs, sustained improvements must be made across multiple levels of service delivery (Mandy, 2022).

The event will be equivalent to 2.3/4hrs of CPD.


This workshop will:
Provide guidance on recognising autism in mental health settings
Consider common co-occurring mental health conditions and overlapping/distinct characteristics
Provide an overview of some key autism-specific experiences relating to mental health
Share tips and guidance on how to adapt clinical practice, including psychological interventions, to work more effectively with autistic clients
Provoke thinking about how mental health services can be developed to better serve autistic clients

Learning Objectives

The session is designed to increase your understanding of:
How to recognise autism in mental health settings
How to differentiate autism characteristics from those of some key co-occurring conditions
How to talk about autism with clients – what language to use, and what to ask about
How to make and explore autism-friendly adaptations to physical environments, communication and interventions

Training Modalities

Didactic content, experiential components, polls, Q&A.

Key References

About the presenter

Will Mandy is Professor of Neurodevelopmental Conditions in the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at UCL. He is a Clinical Psychologist and autism researcher, with extensive experience as an autism trainer. Much of his research focuses on improving mental health services for autistic people.
Richard Pender is a Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Research Fellow at UCL. He has worked in specialist mental health services for autistic clients, and has led on developing and promoting co-production projects with autistic people to improve mental health services.

Who should attend

This event is suitable for clinicians working in mental health services, who are interested to advance their understanding of autism and mental health.