Teenagers with autism have been found to have a greater risk of low mood and depression than their typically developing peers (De- La- Iglasia et al., 2015).

There may be many reasons for this however, we must be cognisant that teenagers with autism might:

  • Realise that they’re ‘different’ from their peers
  • Find it hard to cope with 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, Campion et al, 2015, 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 teenagers with autism include:

  • Have more frequent or more severe repetitive or compulsive behaviour
  • Start to have, or have more, emotional outbursts or physical or verbal aggressive behaviour
  • Start to be, or become more, agitated
  • Start or engage more frequently in self-harm 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.

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
  • Communicating concerns with school/home (social skills cards emotions pack)
  • Organising groups to help build healthy friendships
  • Getting involved in a hobby or social activity
  • Having a mentor or tutor to help cope with schoolwork demands
  • Getting professional help from a psychologist
  • Contacting mental health support groups (see where to go for help)