As adolescents become adults, they typically change from seeing a pediatric health care provider to seeing a health care provider who specializes in working with adults. Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder may have more difficulty finding an adult health care provider who is trained to address the varied needs and medical and mental health issues that often are seen with autism spectrum disorder. Without careful planning for transition to adult health care, patients may continue to be seen by pediatric providers who may not be familiar with adult health needs. This quality improvement project focused on improving transition to adult health care by creating varied supports for the patient, family, and the health care team and putting them into action within a pediatric medical practice that serves over 250 adolescent and young adult patients with autism spectrum disorder. Before the supports were put into place, patients and families received limited and inconsistent communication to help them with transition. While the supports helped increase the amount and quality of help patients and families received, medical providers skipped or put off transition discussion in approximately half of well visits for targeted patients. Challenges in implementing the transition process included finding time to discuss transition-related issues with patients/families, preference of medical providers to have social workers discuss transition, and difficulty identifying adult health care providers for patients. This suggests more work is needed to both train and partner with patients, families, and health staff to promote smooth and positive health transitions.
Keywords: adolescents; autism spectrum disorder; health care transition; young adults.