Professor co-authors project on caring for autistic adults

Research to address the needs of autistic adults remains relatively unchartered territory, but Augusta University Occupational Therapist Teal Benevides hopes to shed light on this population’s critical needs in her latest project “Priority Setting to Improve Health Outcomes: Autistic Adults and Other Stakeholders Engage Together.”

Funded by a $250,000 Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement award from the non-profit organization Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Benevides’ team aims to prioritize the specific health outcomes desired by autistic adults. She also hopes her work will identify potential solutions from their perspective and engage other stakeholders in planning future prioritized intervention research.

“The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders has increased exponentially in the past decade. Although extensive resources are provided to support children with autism, adults with autism are at increased risk for a variety of chronic health conditions,” Benevides said. “Little is being done to address the health needs that are important to this group and our team and I are working hard to change that.”

For this project, Benevides will be working with a team of critically-acclaimed partners such as Autism Speaks board member and Adelphi University professor of special education Dr. Stephen Shore and Global Autism Consulting Organization founder Anita Lesko, a Columbia University graduate and certified registered nurse anesthetist. In addition to being scholars, Shore and Lesko bring a special perspective to the project as they both are adults with autism.

“I feel this project fills a deep gap in both practice and research literature on determining medical needs of individuals on the autism spectrum as well as parents, professionals and others involved in providing medical care,” Shore said.

Lesko said she is approaching this project with the same mission she uses in life.

“This project will improve the health and well-being of autistic individuals around the world,” she said.

Benevides serves as an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy in Augusta University’s College of Allied Health Sciences. Her work in the field of autism has been featured in several publications including the International Journal of Autism Research and Pediatrics.

The Project Team is the first to combine the unique perspectives of an advanced practice health professional with over 28 years of Lesko’s clinical experience, Shore’s educational expertise and research and Benevides’ research that addresses healthcare needs of adults with autism.


The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health care decisions. PCORI is committed to continually seeking input from a broad range of stakeholders to guide its work. More information is available at


Danielle Harris

For more information about attending the Medical College of Georgia at the Medical Partnership campus

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