A University of BC study conducted in the U.S. has found that nearly 78 per cent of children with autism have at least one mental health condition – highlighting an apparent gap in supports for those on the spectrum.
The study, published Tuesday, suggests that nearly half of those same children have two mental health diagnoses or more, according to the department of psychology and the AJ Drexel Autism Institute.
“For a long time, mental health in kids with autism was neglected because the focus was on autism… we don’t have enough people trained to provide mental health treatments to kids on the autism spectrum,” said Dr. Connor Kerns.
Early intervention is known to increase the effectiveness of mental health treatment, Kerns, the lead author of the study, suggested.
Researchers analyzed data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, pulling from a pool of around 42,000 caregivers and 1,131 autism-diagnosed children.
They discovered that mental health issues became more prevalent as children with autism aged – often suffering from anxiety, depression, Tourettes, ADHD and behavioral conditions.
By 12 to 17 years of age, nearly 86 per cent of the teens had developed a comorbid mental health condition.
“If we think about ways to screen and intervene against these mental health conditions before these children even get to school, then we might be way ahead of the game,” Kerns suggested.
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