In The Politics of Autism, I write:
Many analyses of autism speak as if it were only a childhood ailment and assume that parents are the main stakeholders. But most children with autism grow up to be adults with autism, and they suffer uniquely high levels of social isolation. Almost 40 percent of youth with an autism spectrum disorder never get together with friends, and 50 percent of never receive phone calls from friends. These figures are higher than for peers with intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, or learning disability. When school ends, many adults with autism have grim prospects. Though evidence is sparse, it seems that most do not find full-time jobs. Compared with other people their age, they have higher rates of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and suicide attempts.
Youth suicide is a major problem in the United States and globally, but little is known about suicide risk in autistic youth and youth with intellectual disability specifically. Using data from the National Emergency Department Sample, which is the largest database of emergency department visits in the United States, we found that emergency department visits with a suicidal ideation or intentional self-inflicted injury diagnosis were more common in autistic youth and youth with intellectual disability than in youth without these diagnoses (i.e. the comparison group). This was true when examining both suicidal ideation diagnoses and intentional self-inflicted injury diagnoses at emergency department visits. In addition, the number of emergency department visits with a suicidal ideation or intentional self-inflicted injury diagnosis increased more from 2006 to 2014 in autistic youth and youth with intellectual disability compared with the comparison group. We also found both similarities and differences when examining factors, such as age, sex, and co-occurring mental health conditions, related to emergency department visits with a suicidal ideation or intentional self-inflicted injury diagnosis across groups that may be helpful for understanding suicide risk. It is urgent that we improve our understanding, assessment, and treatment of suicidality and self-harm in these groups through more research and clinical efforts.