Depresion and Special Needs

It is pretty normal for students to have occasional times in their lives when they feel sad and/or moody. Life events such as a death, illness, being bullied, family arguments, or school stress can bring on periods of sadness. But what if a course of moodiness is more than a momentary event caused by a significant life event?

Depression is extremely common. The World Health Organization reports that globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. That statistic indicates that an estimated 20% of the population will experience a period of depression at some point in their lives but it is even more common in people on the autism spectrum. These numbers can seem overwhelming but the good news is that there are treatments and programs that can help. Depression can be successfully treated — with psychotherapy, medicine, or a combination of therapy and medicine — in most cases. The first step is to identify the symptoms and then seek help via school, a primary care doctor or a counselor. 

Here is a quick look at some of the symptoms of depression that your child may be exhibiting at school or home.

  • show a lack of energy, be irritable, and seem down in the dumps for no reason
  • withdraw from friends and family
  • not be able to concentrate in class
  • be defiant to teachers and other school staff
  • ask to go to the school nurse often
  • show significant weight loss or gain in a short period of time
  • talk about death or suicide
  • engage in risky or self-destructive behavior (drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or cutting, for example)
  • need additional time to complete classroom and homework assignments
  • miss class time due to doctors appointments, hospitalization, or inability to attend classes because of depression
  • need to go to the school nurse for medication
  • need short breaks throughout the day to avoid feeling overwhelmed

For more information and resources on Mental Health and Autism

Interactive Autism Network 

National Institute for Health