The new findings, reported in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, are based on surveys of nearly 800 mothers of children with an autism spectrum disorder, 35 whose kids were free of autism but suffered from depression, and nearly 200 whose kids had neither disorder. The children ranged in age from 1 to 16, and the autism spectrum disorder cases ranged in severity.
Non-autistic children with depression had the highest rate of suicidal talk and behavior, according to mothers -- 43 percent said it was a problem at least "sometimes."
Among children with autism spectrum disorders, those with depression symptoms were at greatest risk of suicidal talk or attempts. Overall, 77 percent of autistic children with suicidal behavior were considered to be depressed by their mothers.
The results highlight the fact that children with autism spectrum disorders suffer from a range of issues other than the classic autism symptoms, said Angela Gorman, one of the study's researchers.
"Sometimes these other things get overshadowed by the [autism spectrum disorder] symptoms themselves," said Gorman, an assistant professor of child psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine, in Hershey.
She suggested that parents pay close attention to what "normal behavior" is for their child, so they can notice when a potential red flag arises, such as an increase in sad moods or angry outbursts.
"If you have any concerns, take your child in for an evaluation with a psychologist or psychiatrist," Gorman said.
Although the study tied having autism to more suicidal talk or attempts, it didn't prove that these children are more likely to commit suicide.
Besides depression symptoms, bullying also seemed to be a risk factor for suicidal behavior, the researchers found. Kids with autism whose mothers said they were teased were three times more likely to show such behavior.
And teasing w
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