Can autistic kids get depressed? how do you treat this?
Joined: May 04, 2008
My 10 yr old son is very lethargic & zoned-out all summer, ever since school let out.
Just sits there for hours sometimes, staring into space, sometimes will let you interrupt
his deep thought, sometimes not. Even when summer school, a new one,
started & now ended, his behavior continued. almost like he's depressed. won't play, or anything. hardly eats. He seems sad. Talks very little, so if I ask him what's wrong, what hurts, etc--I get no answer.. Physical health is OK I guess--one or 2 ear infections, but those are over with. How do you treat this? meds? which ones? what should I do?
Joined: Mar 22, 2009
Location: The shooting range
Depression commonly occurs as part of the symptoms of ASDs and can be treated with meds or therapy, or sometimes both.
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Joined: Feb 22, 2008
Location: Northern California
Definitely, autistic kids can become depressed. I have heard horror stories, however, about teens and depression medications so I would avoid going there at all costs. Seriously. Those medications are not meant for children, have not been fully tested on children, and when you throw into the mix an autistic child who may not be able to fully communicate how the medications are making him feel, well, I honestly wouldn't go there. I take anti-depressents myself, and there are many downsides, but at the time I went on them there just weren't other viable options; too many people were dependent on me having my head together. With a child, that necessity isn't there, and so the downsides and risks loom much larger.
Definitely talk to a professional about it, but do not let them talk you into medication. Um, can you tell I feel strongly about this? Sorry, but I really do. Being listless and sad isn't a good enough reason to risk some of the things that can happen on drugs.
Mom to an amazing AS boy (plus a non-AS daughter; both teenagers now). Most likely part of the "Broader Autism Phenotype" (some traits).
Joined: Jun 16, 2008
Location: Behind your mineral line
Well, it is certainly possible that he is depressed. But I dont see any clear indications of that in your post. Don't misunderstand me, those symptoms would probably be indicative of depression in a normal 10 year old, but your child isnt a normal 10 year old. For example:
Just because he is deep in thought doesnt mean he is depressed. It is not unusual for me to spend several hours in a dark room starring at nothing because I am thinking something over in my head. No offense to your lovely little reality, but thats not where my head is most of the time. Despite what you hear about autistic people 'lacking imagination', we have much more capacity for entertaining ourselves in our own minds then normal people. The reason many so called 'experts' claim we lack imagination is that we dont show it by playing pretend games with others, we do it alone in our own minds. So, I can assure you that being zoned out isnt necessarily a sign of depression, but more likely him just spending time inside his own head. As for your other concerns:
How so? If your concern is that he isnt playing baseball with his classmates then perhaps the problem is that you are expecting the wrong thing. What entertains me isnt likely going to be what entertains a normal person. For him simply staying inside a dark room reading books and browsing the web may be far more enjoyable then you realize. Have you tried getting him a new computer game or something else that he wants?
You know, my mother says that to me all the time. To be blunt, food and I do not get along well. I get indigestion fairly easily, and more food = more pain. So I really try to avoid eating any more then is necessary. Which is probably why I am only 105 lbs. But being skinny isnt all that bad. In any case, as long as your son doesnt start losing weight to the point of malnutrition, I wouldnt worry too much about it. And if he does start looking slightly skinny, see if you can get him a milk shake or something. Those taste good, and are a very good source of nutrition, after all, we all lived on milk alone for the start of our lives, so its got to have something nutritious in it.
In what way? If your talking about a flat expressionless voice and face, then all your doing is just describing the conditions of autism. Could you be more detailed in what you mean by 'seems sad'?
So, he is autistic?
Please understand I am not trying to make light of your concern, but people have been assuming that I am depressed when I am not for several years. Just because I prefer to spend my time by my self in a dark quiet place with just me and my computer doesnt mean I am sad and lacking fulfillment. It means that I dont like being bothered by people.
But, if you are still concerned about your son being depressed then there is something you can do. It is very simple. Sit your son down, and tell him strait up that you are concerned about him. You think he has been depressed lately and you dont want him to be depressed. Tell him that if anything is bothering him, including yourself, your spouse, classmates, teachers, anything, you would like to help fix the situation. Tell him that you arent going to become mad if he complains about something or someone, you just want to help. If he continues to states that he is not depressed, then I would believe him.
As for anti-depressants, I would be EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS. Simply put, those medications are designed for a normal person, not an autistic one. The brain chemistry is entirely different, and there can be horrendous side effects. It would be like treating a truck engine like a car engine. Putting 89 grade octane in a gas engine will help it run better. Putting 89 grade octane in a diesel engine will cause major problems. Likewise, giving your son meds designed to change his brain chemistry when his brain is different then what the medicine was designed to help with is likely to cause problems.
Perhaps you should read this story before starting medication:
http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/0 ... newsletter
Joined: Apr 11, 2009
Joined: May 15, 2008
[b]Just because he is deep in thought doesnt mean he is depressed. It is not unusual for me to spend several hours in a dark room starring at nothing because I am thinking something over in my head. No offense to your lovely little reality, but thats not where my head is most of the time. Despite what you hear about autistic people 'lacking imagination', we have much more capacity for entertaining ourselves in our own minds then normal people. The reason many so called 'experts' claim we lack imagination is that we dont show it by playing pretend games with others, we do it alone in our own minds. So, I can assure you that being zoned out isnt necessarily a sign of depression, but more likely him just spending time inside his own head. As for your other concerns:[/b]
I know some children who do this as well as my husband. I think anxiety and depression are the most common comorbidity in people on the spectrum, especially anxiety. With that said, it is easy to mistake the "deep thoughts" as depression. Individuals who are NT often see that behavior as depression or sadness because that is the typical behavior of someone who is sad or possibly depressed.
I often have to keep myself in check because my husband does this as well. He can sit for hours just thinking stuff over and at the same time creates computer programs, poems, or ideas for books. It's so amazing at what he is doing in his own mind (It seems even more common in individuals with AS who are high intellects like Tracker and my husband LOL). With my husband, it's extremely easy to think he is depressed or upset at something. When he is depressed, the presentation is very different in that he can't get out of bed, put on his shoes or have the motivation to do anything. He told me that during these times he has the inability to create in his mind and that he replays the same thing in his mind day and night. He stated that he can't stop - for him it is sometimes anxiety and depression combined.
This is how his depression and anxiety presently differently than his typical way of being - everyone is different.
I wonder if doing an activity that he absolutely loves would help? What are his interests? My son loves to build things. If he is bored or seems a little anxious or sad, we find something for him to build or create. . If we didn't do activities like that this summer, he would definitely seem at least sad. He would probably seem distant because his mind is something about creating or how things are working.
If you know his interests but he can't tell you what he wants to do, can you give him three ideas or activities related to that interest?? I would want to know if his behavior is like that even when it is an activity he would usually be interested in. What is he like during the school year?
Getting my son to eat is so hard..That is him. I have started to give"us" shakes as "we" both need to gain weight. Has he lost an interest in food or has he always been like that?
My son has great difficulty paying attention in school because of his internal thoughts (constantly thinking) but he does take in a lot of the information. He may seem ADHD without hyoeractivity to most people but it's different than people with adhd. I am ADHD so for me, it's very easy to tell the difference. - very easy. I refuse to put him on meds because the way he is in school is not due to brain chemistry but it's the way his brain just is. He helps little old "ADHD" me at times. I am stating this because the ADHD issue is similar to depression in that it could be wrongly dx in people on the spectrum because the people doing the dx are NT's who may lack understanding of what may going on inside the mind. Of course, some dx is correct as well
With that said, if he does have depression and truly needs meds, then don't be too fearful of it. Some people do need the extra help. Just please be careful and try to sort it out.
I wish you luck. Let us know what happens.
Joined: Jul 28, 2009
My 14 yo daughter (in the process of assessment for AS) was, for many years, apparently depressed. This is how her AS manifested itself - montone voice, lack of usual interests etc. I took her to the Doc, who referred her for a mental health assessment, which came back negative, but no-one suggested that it may be AS.
What I am trying to say is that your son may be manifesting his differences in a way that appears to you to be depressed, but to him is normal.
Joined: Sep 17, 2007
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