College students with autism have high rate of suicidal thoughts

March 7, 2018 by Kendall Teare, Yale University
Credit: stock.adobe.com

Over the next decade, about 247,000 young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are expected to enroll in universities, colleges, or technical/vocational schools. Because post-secondary education is expected to present new challenges to individuals with ASD, new scholarship is being conducted to assess how ready post-secondary education is to serve a larger population with ASD.

Under the leadership of Yale's Dr. Fred Volkmar, the March 2018 special issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders focused on the college experiences of students with ASD. Volkmar, the Irving B. Harris Professor in the Child Study Center and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, also has a study coming out in the March 2018 special issue about the self-reported academic, social, and experiences of post-secondary students with ASD. This study is a cornerstone of the journal's post-secondary -focused January issue.

In the October study, Volkmar and his team found that nearly three-quarters of respondents reported lifetime suicidal behaviors. The researcher concluded that although this study—the first to systematically address this topic in college students with ASD—must be replicated, the rates at which post-secondary students experience suicidal ideation "deserves immediate attention and consideration from all Disability Support and Mental Health/Counseling staff at post-secondary institutions."

Initial research suggests that students with ASD possess "a fairly unique profile of challenges and needs" compared to students with other disabilities such as ADHD, the team reports. For students with learning disabilities like ADHD, resources at the post-secondary level often take the form of testing or academic accommodations (i.e., extra time on exams or separate test rooms), which may not be as helpful for or fully meet the needs of students with ASD, said the researchers.

Instead of specialized academic support, said the researchers, this study suggests that students with ASD need additional resources to bolster their social and mental health such as "programs designed to build social skills/networks (e.g., peer-mentor programs, ASD housing/clubs), and improved availability and quality of counseling/psychological services."

"This kind of institutional support could go a long way in helping these students become fully integrated into their campus environment and in helping them succeed while enrolled in post-secondary education," said Volkmar, senior author on the study. "Given that the successful completion of a post-secondary degree is a significant predictor of positive adult outcomes in ASD populations—impacting the likelihood that an individual will be able to find employment, obtain financial independence, and live independently—it is imperative that we further investigate the ways that post-secondary institutions can best support their growing population of students with ASD."

Explore further: How can students with autism be supported through college?

More information: Scott L. J. Jackson et al. Brief Report: Self-Reported Academic, Social, and Mental Health Experiences of Post-Secondary Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2017). DOI: 10.1007/s10803-017-3315-x

Scott L. J. Jackson et al. Preface: Special Issue—College Experiences for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2018). DOI: 10.1007/s10803-018-3463-7

Related Stories

How can students with autism be supported through college?

January 31, 2018
Thirty years ago it was rare for a student with ASD to enter college. But over the past decades, there has been much improvement in the detection and awareness of ASD in children. Now, with the provision of effective treatments, ...

Study shows interventions, though few, can be effective for students with high-functioning autism

December 5, 2017
Across the country, more and more young people are being diagnosed as with autism spectrum disorder, including those with high-functioning autism. Yet there is little research into how to help educators serve students with ...

Study links mental health to poor school results

December 18, 2017
A national survey led by The University of Western Australia has painted a bleak picture of the effect of mental disorders on Australia's school students with the results revealing poorer academic outcomes, more absences ...

Recommended for you

Screening may miss signs of autism, especially in girls: study

May 21, 2018
(HealthDay)—An important checklist used to screen for autism can miss subtle clues in some children, delaying their eventual diagnosis.

Autism is not linked to eating fish in pregnacy

May 21, 2018
A major study examining the fish-eating habits of pregnant women has found that they are not linked to autism or autistic traits in their children.

Scientists just beginning to understand autistic adults' unique health needs

May 11, 2018
In the 1990s, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children rose sharply. These children are now entering adulthood, yet physicians and scientists know very little about the health outcomes they might face. ...

Meet Nao, the robot that helps treat kids with autism

May 9, 2018
(HealthDay)—It may seem counterintuitive, but a robot might help kids with autism interact better with humans.

New study links strong pupillary light reflex in infancy to later autism diagnosis

May 7, 2018
A new study published in Nature Communications shows that infants who are later diagnosed with autism react more strongly to sudden changes in light. This finding provides support for the view that sensory processing plays ...

Scientists find possible autism biomarker in cerebrospinal fluid

May 2, 2018
Autism diagnosis is slow and cumbersome, but new findings linking a hormone called vasopressin to social behavior in monkeys and autism in people may change that. Low vasopressin in cerebrospinal fluid was related to less ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.