Social Thinking Articles


Many Young Adults With Autism Also Have Mental Health Issues

Tara Haelle

Oct 01, 2017

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College involved "many anxiety attacks and many trips home" for Daniel Share-Strom, an autistic 27-year-old motivational speaker in Bradford, Ontario. It wasn't just the challenge of organizing his assignments and fighting the disability office for the extra time he needed for tests. It was also managing all the aspects of daily life that most people not on the autism spectrum take for granted.

"Relationships are so much harder to understand or initiate when by default you don't really know what certain facial expressions mean or what certain actions mean," Share-Strom says.

Young adults on the autism spectrum are more likely to also have been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition, such as depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than are typically developing people or those with other developmental disabilities, a study finds. And managing those multiple conditions can make the transition to young adulthood especially difficult.

It's not clear how much biological factors may contribute to the higher rates, but Share-Strom definitely sees environmental factors playing a major role.

"People with autism aren't immediately born anxious or with depression," Share-Strom says. "The world is fundamentally not built for us, and people are always judging and trying to change you, whether they have the best intentions or not," he says. "Of course that's going to cause a higher rate of anxiety and depression and even suicide rates. I'd be surprised if it didn't."

That makes providing resources for these young adults all the more important during that transitional period.

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