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At Grand Rounds, Westphal Discusses Autism Spectrum Disorder

June 13, 2018
by Jacqueline Rocheleau

For adults with debilitating cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there are few resources. But at Benhaven (a non-profit agency in Southern Connecticut that offers educational, residential and family services for people with ASD and intellectual disability), adults with severe ASD cases have a place to go and clinicians to turn to.

At the Child Study Center Schwartz Grand Rounds on Tuesday, June 12, Alexander Westphal, MD, PhD ‘13, HS10, FW11, FW13, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale, led attendees in a discussion with Benhaven staff on managing extreme behaviors some ASD adults may present with.

Benhaven Clinical Coordinator Cynthia Beesley, Clinical Staff Member Sarah Rosenberg, Danielle Castro, RN, and Westphal told attendees about a patient they all have in common. A previously helpful and social young man living in one of Benhaven’s adult residential homes had begun to exhibit violent behavior, such as chokeholds and biting, over the past few months.

“The basic idea is needs—it’s about getting needs met,” said Westphal. For this patient, the need was attention from staff, personal attachment. But people like this young man cannot always communicate their needs, a frustration which could manifest in violence, among other behaviors. According to Westphal, seeing violence in people with ASD is rare. But when it occurs, it requires a dedicated, empathic team to address it.

Submitted by Jacqueline Rocheleau on June 13, 2018