When many envision childhood, we picture children eager to play and engage with the world around them. We imagine kids feel carefree, curious, and generally happy. Unfortunately, though, for many children, this is not their reality. Childhood depression is a condition that affects many families, even those with very young kids. And, like many other debilitating disorders deserves awareness and supportive resources.
While depression is a term that the public is generally familiar with, as it is a prominent, worldwide condition, many don’t consider that children also experience it. To make matters worse, the impact of childhood depression in some cases can be crippling, extreme, and, in severe cases, fatal.
Childhood Depression Awareness Day, observed annually on May 2nd, attracts attention to the critical topic of childhood depression. This national day helps providers, educators, and parents discuss ways to support children with depression and the challenges they may experience.
ABA Centers of Florida respectfully understand how profoundly childhood depression can also affect individuals on the spectrum and their families. This blog aims to bring awareness to Childhood Depression Awareness Day while exploring how depression affects children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
For more information about ABA Centers of Florida, click here.
Childhood Depression Awareness Day and Autism Spectrum Disorder
As a parent of a neurodivergent child, you may wonder if they may also have depression. It’s not an uncommon concern; societal focus on developmental progress often overshadows it. A meta-analysis examining ASD and depressive disorders shows that the rates of childhood depression are high among individuals on the spectrum.
For children with autism, depression can be particularly challenging as it can exacerbate other behavioral difficulties. People with autism are four times more likely to experience depression at any point. These statistics demonstrate the value of Childhood Depression Awareness Day, which promotes regular screening, treatment, and discussion of childhood depression.
The good news for parents with a child experiencing neurodiversity and depression is that ABA therapy can offer compassionate, evidence-based intervention. ABA techniques and providers improve coping and learning while promoting well-being. Research demonstrates that ABA therapy can make a massive difference for children experiencing comorbidities.
What Are the Typical Symptoms of Childhood Depression?
In many cases of childhood depression, children display general irritability and sadness. Additionally, many show anhedonia, or a reduced ability to feel pleasure. Children in early development may also complain of somatic issues like pain, generalized weakness, and difficulty breathing. Others may exhibit behavioral problems. In some cases, those with childhood depression may play games or discuss themes of death or suicide.
As children age and their verbal and reflective abilities improve, different symptoms of depression become more prominent. In many cases, female children’s depression typically manifests in changes in weight and appetite, more frequent crying, and feelings of guilt or low self-worth. Male children with depression often exhibit anhedonia, changes in energy and mood, or withdrawal.
Living with Childhood Depression and ASD
While depression can be challenging to detect in many children, those with autism experience more profound struggles being diagnosed and treated. These challenges are often due to impairments in communication or atypical expressions of hopelessness, disinterest, and sadness. In many cases, children with autism and depression experience extreme difficulty expressing their depressive states.
For children on the spectrum, detection of depression is primarily drawn based on observable behaviors and changes in mental state. These observable behaviors may include increased:
- Negative attitude and tone
- Poor sleep
- Weight fluctuations
- Performance breakdown
- Skill regression
- Catatonic behavior
- Self-injurious behavior (SIB)
- Preoccupation with themes of death
Detection of childhood depression with ASD can be complex because behaviors like agitation, irritability, and unstable mood, can be challenging to differentiate from the primary diagnosis of autism. In many cases, families wait years to receive both diagnoses.
Potential Causations of Depression in Children with Autism
Some potential causes of autism with childhood depression may include social isolation and difficulty establishing relationships, regulating sensory processing, communication difficulties, and emotional issues.
While the causes of depression in children with autism may vary, research indicates early detection and intervention can improve outcomes. ABA therapy is commonly recommended by developmental pediatricians and other medical practitioners for children navigating autism, among other conditions.
What is ABA Therapy?
ABA therapy is a trusted behavioral approach that focuses on positive reinforcement and other techniques to promote behaviors conducive to learning and greater independence. Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA therapy provides effective interventions for many, including children on the spectrum also experiencing depression.
Applied Behavior Analysis as Intervention for Autism and Childhood Depression
ABA therapy focuses on increasing positive behavior and minimizing challenging behaviors to help children develop critical skills such as communication, socialization, and problem-solving. Children become more empowered and engaged when taught the skills to establish relationships, manage emotions, and thrive in social settings.
With the proper support and ABA expertise, kids with autism can overcome the challenges of depression and live happy, fulfilling lives.
Signs That Your Child May Need Professional Assistance
It is essential to watch your child or loved one while learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression or emotional distress. It is crucial, whether your child has ASD or not, to seek professional support if your child is exhibiting signs of childhood depression.
Signs that any child may need support include but are not limited to:
- Generalized sadness
- Lack of motivation or engagement
- Changes in eating habits
- Somatic symptoms
- Sleep disturbances
In addition to traditional treatments for childhood depression, ABA therapy can be a powerful ally for many. But it’s important to discuss your options with an expert right away.
ABA Centers of Florida Embraces Childhood Depression Awareness Day
ABA Centers of Florida recognizes the importance of Childhood Depression Awareness Day. Doing so ensures all children can access the supportive resources they need to flourish regardless of adversity. With proper access, children diagnosed with autism and childhood depression can make significant gains and reach incredible heights.
Through our personalized approach, evaluation, and treatment plans, ABA Centers of Florida offers a path to success and support for neurodivergent children and their families experiencing various challenges.
Together we can fight against childhood depression!
For more advice and support regarding ABA Therapy, call us today at (772) 773-1975 or contact us here.