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Suicidal Thoughts More Common in Kids With Autism: Study
Date:3/21/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism may have a higher-than-average risk of contemplating or attempting suicide, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that mothers of children with autism were much more likely than other moms to say their child had talked about or attempted suicide: 14 percent did, versus 0.5 percent of mothers whose kids didn't have the disorder.

The behavior was more common in older kids (aged 10 and up) and those whose mothers thought they were depressed, as well as kids whose moms said they were teased.

An autism expert not involved in the research, however, said the study had limitations, and that the findings "should be interpreted cautiously."

One reason is that the information was based on mothers' reports, and that's a limitation in any study, said Cynthia Johnson, director of the Autism Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Johnson also said mothers were asked about suicidal and "self-harming" talk or behavior. "A lot of children with autism talk about or engage in self-harming behavior," she said. "That doesn't mean there's a suicidal intent."

Still, Johnson said it makes sense that children with autism would have a higher-than-normal risk of suicidal tendencies. It's known that they have increased rates of depression and anxiety symptoms, for example.

The issue of suicidal behavior in these kids "is an important one," Johnson said, "and it deserves further study."

Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental brain disorders that hinder a child's ability to communicate and interact socially. They range from severe cases of "classic" autism to the relatively mild form called Asperger's syndrome.

In the United States, it's been estimated that about one in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder. This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised that pre
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