Department of Human Services Releases New Research on Supporting People with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism

Harrisburg, PA -  The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) today released the latest issue of the Positive Approaches Journal, which aims to provide the most recent research and resources for people with mental health and behavioral challenges, intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities to live an everyday life. This edition focuses on research and information about individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism and the influence that biological and genetic factors may have.  

“DHS works to ensure that Pennsylvanians with disabilities have all the services and supports they need to live everyday lives. Part of that support includes highlighting research which can help support an individual and promote their own path forward in achieving an Everyday Life,” said DHS Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh. “We hope that this edition of the Positive Approaches Journal can provide more information to improve the lives of Pennsylvanians.”  

This edition features research and articles on:  

  • Data Discoveries 

  • highlights "behavior phenotyping,” which aims to identify and describe the specific patterns of behavior that are commonly associated with autism. 

  • Interdisciplinary Care for Adults with Down Syndrome and Autism – Practical Considerations and a Brief Literature Review

  • outlines practical care considerations for adults with Down syndrome and autism to maximize life-long well-being and help patients, caregivers, and health care professionals work better together.  

  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Effects on Communication, Learning, and Behavioral Health 

  • discusses long-term effects of FASD and highlights positive outcomes when FASD is appropriately diagnosed, and support services are available.  

  • Optimizing Outcomes by Recognizing and Responding to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

  • highlights the Life History Screen tool, which helps to identify older adolescents and adults with FASD and discusses how individuals, families, and systems can work together to create better environments for those with FASD.  

  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Thirty Reasons Why Early Identification Matters 

  • defines early identification of FASD and describes how it can help parents, families, and care teams provide ongoing support to children with FASD.  

The journal is a collaboration of DHS’ Office of Developmental Programs and Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and collects resources, observations, and advancements in mental and behavioral health in order to better serve people in their communities.  

Read this edition of the Positive Approaches Journal.  

For more information visit


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DHS Media Contact Details

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Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
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Ali Fogarty

Communications Director Department of Human Director 717-425-7606
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Brandon Cwalina

Press Secretary Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
Department of Human Services Media