Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 313-321

First online:

Characteristics of Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders Served in Comprehensive Community-based Mental Health Settings

  • David S. MandellAffiliated withCenter for Mental Health Policy and Services Research, , University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Email author 
  • , Christine M. WalrathAffiliated withORC Macro, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
  • , Brigitte ManteuffelAffiliated withORC Macro, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
  • , Gina SgroAffiliated withORC Macro, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
  • , Jennifer Pinto-MartinAffiliated withUniversity of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

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This study describes the characteristics of children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) receiving treatment in community mental health settings. Data from a national community mental health initiative was used to identify children who had received a primary diagnosis of ASD. These children were compared with children with other diagnoses on socio-demographic and psychosocial characteristics, presenting problems and service histories. Regardless of diagnosis, children were most often referred to service because of disruptive behaviors. Children with ASD were less likely to be referred for drug use, truancy or running away, but were more likely to be referred for social interaction difficulties and strange behavior. Many children had family histories of mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence. Implications of these findings are discussed in detail.


Autism asperger’s disorder child abuse community mental health services behavioral disorders