Adapting Safety Plans for Autistic Adults with Involvement from the Autism Community

Jane Goodwin, Isabel Gordon, Sally O'Keeffe, Scarlett Carling, Anya Berresford, Nawaraj Bhattarai, Phil Heslop, Emma Nielsen, Rory C. O'Connor, Emmanuel Ogundimu, Mirabel Pelton, Sheena E. Ramsay, Jacqui Rodgers, Ellen Townsend, Luke Vale, Colin Wilson, Sarah Cassidy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Autistic adults are at greater risk of self-harm and suicide than the general population. One promising intervention in the general population is safety planning. We aimed to seek advice from autistic adults and others in the autism community on how to adapt safety plans for autistic adults. Methods: We conducted focus groups with autistic adults (n = 15), family members (n = 5), and service providers (n = 10), about their views of the Autism Adapted Safety Plan (AASP). We also conducted interviews about the acceptability of the AASP with autistic adults who had developed an AASP (n = 8) and with service providers who had supported them (n = 8). We analyzed the focus group and interview transcripts using thematic analysis. Results: Theme 1 highlights conditions needed to make the process of creating the AASP acceptable for autistic adults. This included creating the AASP with someone they could trust and at the right place and time, when they were not in distress or in crisis. Theme 2 describes how safety planning needed to be a creative, flexible, and iterative process. Autistic adults may need help in expressing their emotions and identifying coping strategies, which can be supported through visual resources and suggestions from the service provider. To ensure that the AASP is accessible in times of crisis, it needs to meet the autistic adults’ preferences in terms of formatting and how it is stored (i.e., hard copy or electronic). Conclusions: The AASP is a potentially valuable intervention for autistic adults, provided that the process of creating it is flexible and sensitive to individual needs. Further testing of the AASP to assess its clinical effectiveness in reducing suicidal behavior could provide a life-saving intervention for autistic adults. Clinical Trial Registration Number: ISRCTN70594445, Protocol v4: 8/2/22.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalAutism in Adulthood
Early online date1 Apr 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Apr 2024

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