Autisitic teenagers have been found to have a greater risk of low mood and depression than their non autistic peers (De- La- Iglasia et al., 2015).
There may be many reasons for this however, we must be cognisant that autistic teenagers might:
- Realise or feel that they are “different” from their peers
- Have difficulty managing the increasing academic and social pressure or expectations
- Find it hard to understand social rules and expectations, make friends or “fit in” socially
However, many symptoms of depression can be missed as they can be perceived as characteristics of autism,
- lack of emotion in speech patterns,
- lack of animation during interaction,
- ability to describe how the individual is feeling.
It is only through 360-degree evaluated observations and feedback, involving all who have an interest in the student that we can see many of the difficulties that the student is experiencing.
Signs of low mood and depression in autistic teenagers may include:
- Have more frequent or more severe repetitive or compulsive behaviour
- Start to have, or have more, emotional stress responses or engage from frequently in physical or verbal aggressive behaviour
- Start to be, or become more, agitated
- Start or engage more frequently in self-harming behaviour, such as hand-biting
- Find it harder to do previously mastered everyday things in different situations or environments
- Become obsessed, either in their speech or research, with death
- Talk about suicide or harming themselves.
However, it must also be noted that these characteristics may be prevalent in non autistic teenagers as well.
Review the advice from Autistica, the UK’s national autism research charity
If you’re concerned talk to your GP, who can put you in contact with an appropriate professional.
Some other things that might help include:
- Social skills training, remembering the advice of Ros Blackburn, “Although role- play is a very valuable tool, nothing can beat the real scenario”
- Communicating concerns between school and home (Social Skills Cards Emotions Pack)
- Organising groups to help build healthy friendships, shared interest groups, consider pursuing the young person’s focused interest as a catalyst to friendships or social encounters, with Wood (2019) seeing that the recognition of focused interest as being beneficial not only to well being but academic achievement.
- Getting involved in a hobby or social activity
- Having a mentor or tutor to help cope with schoolwork demands, as Autism Forward claim, “As every autistic person has individual talents and individual needs, we believe that one-to-one support from a specialist mentor is the key to achieving your full potential”
- Getting professional help from a psychologist
- Contacting mental health support groups (Where to go for help)
- Access some of the avaliable apps