Dr Matthew Hollocks
Senior Clinical Lecture at the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Clinical Psychologist at SCAAND
What is your role within the King’s Maudsley Partnership?
As a clinical academic I work across both the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) and the South London and Maudsley Trust and conduct research into common co-occurring mental health conditions that are experienced by autistic people. I also work clinically with this population.
In both parts of my job, I focus on finding ways to better understand and treat co-occurring mental health difficulties. I am particularly interested in how we can support children and young people who experience anxiety and depression through adapting existing psychological treatment approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and developing new approaches that are more specifically designed for working with neurodiverse people.
What mental health comorbidities commonly occur with autism within children and young people?
Autistic children and young people tend to experience higher rates of mental health difficulties across the board. Anxiety is the most common, with around 40% of young people having at least one anxiety condition with social anxiety and generalised anxiety tending to be most common. Rates of depression and OCD are also particularly high compared to those without autism.
How do children with autism experience anxiety and how is it different from how neurotypical children might experience anxiety?
This is an area which is still being researched, but I think it is safe to say that it varies a lot depending on the individual. For many, their anxiety will be experienced similarly compared to those without autism, but difficulties with communication can mean it can be difficult to describe this to others and make sit much harder to find ways to cope. For others, the triggers of anxiety may be different, for example, with sensory differences making noisy or crowded spaces very anxiety provoking.
What is the partnership doing to support children through research and clinical work?
There is a lot of great clinical and research work happening across the Partnership to support autistic children with anxiety and other co-occurring mental health difficulties. For example, Professor Emily Simonoff and her group have developed Molehill Mountain, a self-help app for anxiety problems which is currently being trialled with young people. Across SCAAND we have been running several group interventions to support the development of emotion regulation skills, and another for autistic girls. One of my own recent projects has been to co-design, with autistic adolescents, an adapted intervention for depression which we have now piloted and hope to develop further.
For more information on the SCAAND Service, visit https://slam.nhs.uk/service-detail/service/scaand