Mental health is a big issue in our world. Non-speakers are just as susceptible, if not more susceptible, to these difficulties. I have had periods of depression on and off for years. It happens very rarely in conjunction with other medical issues, but when it does hit, it can feel like it is too much to handle. Did you know that studies show that 40.2% of autistic adults also experience depression symptoms? That is a very high number. I am concerned that that number is even higher if you consider the number of non-speakers there are who may not be able to communicate their struggle with depression.
Depression Signs to Look for in a Non-speaking Autistic Person:
There are some things you can look for if you are concerned that your non-speaking loved one may be experiencing depression. You may notice crying or whining without an explanation or associated incident. This is also usually my first symptom. You may also see excessive self-soothing beyond typical stimming. For me, this is wanting a lot of showers. I also need longer breaks and music to get and stay regulated. You may also see aggressive or avoidant behavior. Aggressive for me is hair pulling, but this almost never happens anymore. Avoidance is trying to get out of work, even if it is my favorite thing to work on.
How to Help:
If your non-speaker can answer choices, it is important to give them opportunities to share how they are feeling. While I may experience feelings in non-traditional ways, I can still share how I am feeling thanks to my letter board and I am very grateful for that.