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Teal Benevides, PhD, OTR/L - Augusta University. Augusta, GA, US

Teal Benevides, PhD, OTR/L

Associate Professor & Director of Faculty Development, Institute of Public and Preventive Health | Augusta University


Teal Benevides has a passion for addressing disparities among those on the autism spectrum, including racial and ethnic minorities.






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Teal Benevides, PhD, MS, OTR/L has a passion for describing, understanding, and addressing disparities among individuals on the autism spectrum, including racial and ethnic minorities, and autistic adults.

Areas of Expertise (6)

Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Autism Services

Autism Research and Treatment

Mental Health Research

Services and Support

Adults With Autism


Affiliations (4)

  • Organization for Autism Research : Member, Scientific Advisory Board
  • Autism in Adulthood : Deputy Editor
  • American Journal of Occupational Therapy : Associate Editor
  • Institute of Exceptional Care : Member, Advisory Board

Media Appearances (5)

Unveiling the Hidden Challenges: The Quest for Independence Among U.S. Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

BNN  online


Imagine navigating a world that doesn't always understand or accommodate your needs. Now, consider doing so with the added challenge of an intellectual disability (ID). This isn't just a thought experiment for about 818,564 adults in the United States, born in the 1980s and '90s, whose daily reality involves overcoming barriers that many of us can scarcely comprehend. A groundbreaking study by researchers at Augusta University, led by Teal Benevides, associate professor, sheds light on this often overlooked population, urging a reevaluation of how society supports adults with ID.

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Researchers from Augusta University are using Census data to find out how many adults in the U.S. are currently living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Georgia Public Radio  radio


Researchers from Augusta University are using Census data to find out how many adults in the U.S. are currently living with intellectual and developmental disabilities

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School learning transitions could heavily impact special needs students

WRDW  online


“We’re already seeing a dramatic rise in adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum in suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviors as well as other mental health crises,” Teal Benevides with the Department of Occupational Therapy at Augusta University said. Benevides says many of these students are regressing with skills they’ve already learned, causing even more stress on families and parents

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New research addresses the needs of adults with autism

WJBF  online


When we think of autism, we often think of children and their struggle with school and interacting with other people. What we do not often consider is the fact that those children grow up and become adults. That void is something that researchers at Augusta University are investigating — how to care for adults with autism. It is obvious when you talk to Teal Benevides, an associate professor and occupational therapist at Augusta University, that she is excited about her work. Her latest project is “Priority Setting to Improve Health Outcomes: Autistic Adults and Other Stakeholders Engage Together”.

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Access to Medicaid waivers varies with race, age, region – Spectrum

ABNT  online


Black and Hispanic people with autism or intellectual disability in North Carolina are less likely to receive a Medicaid waiver for home and community-based services than their white peers are, according to a new study. A person’s age and the county in which they live also affect their chances. The waivers are the largest source of funds for home and community-based health-care services in the United States. The provisions allow Medicaid — insurance from the federal government for low-income families — to cover transportation and mental health services, as well as speech, physical and occupational therapy. How Medicaid administers these waivers, though, is left up to individual states, which has led to wide variation in their distribution.

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Answers (2)

Since adults with intellectual disabilities are living longer, how much of a concern is it they will not get the help they need?

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“What alarms me is we don’t have sufficient services and supports for adults. We just don’t have them. When people ask for services, support and resources, there’s no place to point them to unless they are children.”

Why is it important to know the number of adults living with intellectual disability? 

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“Many adults with ID are going to require services and support. They’re likely going to require housing support, employment support and many of them are food insecure. I think policymakers at both the state and federal level need to know about this because, regardless of whether or not our policymakers support Medicaid expansion, many people with ID are also going to need adequate health care coverage because the vast majority of people with intellectual disability are not employed.”

Articles (4)

Prevalence of intellectual disability among adults born in the 1980s and 1990s in the United States

Wiley Online

Teal Benevides, Biplab Datta, Jen Jerneski, M. McKee


Background Prevalence of intellectual disability (ID) is currently estimated through parent report on surveys of children. It is difficult to estimate the number of adults living with ID in the United States because no comprehensive survey or surveillance allows for identification. The purpose of this study was to estimate the prevalence and number of adults with ID born between 1980 and 1999 using multiple years of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and Census data. Methods We concatenated the NHIS from 1997–2016 that evaluated parental response about whether a child aged 3–17 years had an ID. Using weighted survey analyses, we estimated the prevalence of ID among individuals across four birth cohorts—(1) 1980–1984, (2) 1985–1989, (3) 1990–1994, and (4) 1995–1999. The number of adults with ID was then extrapolated by applying these prevalence rates to Census population estimates (as of 1 July 2021) of respective birth cohorts. Results Weighted prevalence of ID varied by birth cohort, sex, race and ethnicity, and US Census Bureau regions. The overall prevalence rate was 1.066 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.831–1.302] for adults born between 1980 and 1984, 0.772 (CI: 0.654–0.891) for adults born between 1985 and 1989, 0.774 (0.675–0.874) for adults born between 1990 and 1994, and 1.069 (CI: 0.898–1.240) for adults born between 1995 and 1999. Overall, we estimate that 818 564 adults with ID who were approximately 21–41 years were living in the United States as of 2021.

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Racial and ethnic disparities in benefits eligibility and spending among adults on the autism spectrum: A cohort study using the Medicare Medicaid Linked Enrollees Analytic Data Source

PLoS One

Teal W Benevides, Henry J Carretta, George Rust, Lindsay Shea

2021 Background Research on children and youth on the autism spectrum reveal racial and ethnic disparities in access to healthcare and utilization, but there is less research to understand how disparities persist as autistic adults age. We need to understand racial-ethnic inequities in obtaining eligibility for Medicare and/or Medicaid coverage, as well as inequities in spending for autistic enrollees under these public programs. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional cohort study of U.S. publicly-insured adults on the autism spectrum using 2012 Medicare-Medicaid Linked Enrollee Analytic Data Source (n = 172,071). We evaluated differences in race-ethnicity by eligibility (Medicare-only, Medicaid-only, Dual-Eligible) and spending...

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Interventions to address health outcomes among autistic adults: A systematic review


Teal W Benevides, Stephen M Shore, May-Lynn Andresen, Reid Caplan, Barb Cook, Dena L Gassner, Jasmine M Erves, Taylor M Hazlewood, M Caroline King, Lisa Morgan, Lauren E Murphy, Yenn Purkis, Brigid Rankowski, Sarah M Rutledge, Savannah P Welch, Karl Wittig

2020 Research has shown that autistic adults have poor health outcomes. We conducted a systematic review to identify existing interventions to address health outcomes for autistic adults and to determine whether these interventions address the priorities of the autistic community. We searched PubMed for articles that included an intervention, a primary health outcome measured at the individual (not system) level, and a sample population of at least 50% autistic adults. Studies were excluded if they were not peer-reviewed, had a focus on caregivers, were expert opinions on specific interventions, untested protocols, or interventions without a primary health outcome. Out of the 778 articles reviewed, 19 were found to meet the stated criteria. Based on the evidence gathered, two were considered emerging evidence-based approaches: cognitive behavioral approaches and mindfulness. The remaining interventions included in the review did not have sufficient evidence to support current use with this population. The majority of the studies included samples of young autistic adults, primarily male, without an intellectual disability. Anxiety, quality of life, depression, and behavioral issues were among the health outcomes measured in the final included articles. More research on preferred interventions with prioritized health outcomes of the autistic adult population is needed.

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Listening to the autistic voice: Mental health priorities to guide research and practice in autism from a stakeholder-driven project


Teal W Benevides, Stephen M Shore, Kate Palmer, Patricia Duncan, Alex Plank, May-Lynn Andresen, Reid Caplan, Barb Cook, Dena Gassner, Becca Lory Hector, Lisa Morgan, Lindsey Nebeker, Yenn Purkis, Brigid Rankowski, Karl Wittig, Steven S Coughlin

2020 Autistic adults are significantly more likely to experience co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Although intervention studies are beginning to be implemented with autistic adults to address mental health outcomes, little is known about what research autistic adults feel is needed, or what mental health outcomes are of value to them. The purpose of this article is to describe a project that involved more than 350 autistic adults and other stakeholders as coproducers of research priorities on mental health. Through a variety of methods including a large online survey, two large stakeholder meetings, and three face-to-face focus groups, the project team identified five top priorities for mental health research which should be incorporated by researchers and practitioners in their work with autistic adults. These included research to inform trauma-informed care approaches; societal approaches for inclusion and acceptance of autistic individuals; community-available approaches for self-management of mental health; evaluation of adverse mental health outcomes of existing interventions; and improvements in measurement of quality of life, social well-being, and other preferred outcomes in autistic adults.

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