After a while of not writing any blog posts, I’m back with a new post about autism and how depression has had a history in coinciding with it. Because there are many people that believe that a lot of those with autism don’t feel many emotions, not much thought is given to the fact that autistic people are capable of having depression.
Like any neurotypical people, autistic people are completely capable of experiencing depression too. I’ve touched on my history of depression in previous articles not too long ago, so I can say that I’ve experienced it firsthand as one with Aspergers Syndrome, and I’ve known others with autism that struggled with depression. To touch on one factor of depression in autistic people specifically, I will mention bullying.
Young people with autism are unfortunately the target of bullying in schools. According to a 2012 national survey conducted by the Interactive Autism Network and Johns Hopkins University, children with autism are three times as likely as their neurotypical siblings to experience bullying, and according to the parents that took the survey, 61% of children with Aspergers, 28% of children with autism, and 37% of children with other autism disorders have been affected. Being bullied by others simply for what makes them different absolutely has the potential to make a child with autism experience depression because of the feelings of loneliness and worthlessness that is provoked through being bullied. Sometimes other children will do things on purpose that negatively affects an autistic child’s senses.
The issue with depression in an autistic child or even a little older is that it’s harder for the parents or other adults to recognize when an autistic child is depressed. The symptoms practically ‘overlap’ when it comes to autism and depression. If someone with autism is emotionally distant or socially withdrawn, people are quick to decide that the behavior is part of the child’s autism, rather than it being linked to something else since social withdrawal and emotional distance can be common in certain autistic people anyway. This is why it’s all the more important that parents pay closer attention and make sure to have conversations with their child about how things are going at school so that they will know whether or not things are going well.
While it’s obviously sad that autistic children get bullied at school, particularly in different fashions than others at times, this is fixable. It can be prevented. What needs to happen is that the school boards need to have more motivation to handle serious matters like these, and it’s the parents’ role to see to it that these issues are recognized and fixed. As someone who has heard dozens of stories about the treatment of autistic children in schools, I can say that this is something that saddens me and I hope so much that autistic children get better treatment in the future soon.