When it comes to disability and/or depression connection to others is a must

Besides working as a software application administrator at Boise State University my friend Carlyle is a regular speaker on autism. He has spoken to local law enforcement, parents of autistic children, campus ministries and mental health professionals. He is the first autistic person to serve of the board of the Autism Society Treasure Valley and he founded Boise Autistic Adults and Allies which brings together local adults with autism as well as parents and siblings of those who are autistic. And he is the one who taught me, among other things, that many adults with autism, or as he would say, autistic adults, prefer identity first language instead of person first language.

He’s pretty impressive isn’t he? I think so and I know his wife, Kristen, and daughter, Aeriel, would agree. Besides being autistic, Carlyle’s left arm became paralyzed 20 years ago after being hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. I’m not sure though, that this happening is as bad as the bullying he has gone through as both a child and an adult.

Explains Carlyle, “I heard stuff said about how no one likes me and no one wants me around pretty much every day unless I managed not to talk to anyone. It was much worse as a kid, but I have experienced it as an adult as well.”

Part of ASD is having a hard time reading social cues which can lead to being treated poorly by others. It’s no wonder that a large study found that adults with autism are three times more likely to have depression and five times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.*

For some, including Carlyle, having clinical depression can be what prompts seeking help and getting an autism diagnosis. Having the autism diagnosis helps “gives me a way to explain it to those who will listen,” he said.

Yet almost half of the people with autism who tried to take their own life, according to researchers with Kaiser Permanente Northern California, had not been diagnosed with depression beforehand. In my mind, much more study and writing of resources needs to be done on how disability and depression are often tied together.

And we need to listen better to our friends who struggle with disability and/or depression. When I asked Carlyle what helps him as well as what can help others to ease depression related to disability he had this to say:

“The best thing for me has been connecting with other people. It’s easier to accept what I can’t do when someone appreciates what I can do for them. It’s easier to drown out all the voices pushing me away when there are a few saying they love me no matter what and who always hug me. I think therapy and medication can be helpful but there really is no substitute for genuine connection. I believe this applies to children and adults. For me it’s never mattered much whether I have friends like me either. It matters more that they are outside of my family. My circle of friends covers a wide range of ages, interests and circumstances.”

Lord help us listen, connect, learn and build friendships with others. We will never know what others need unless we take time to listen and learn. And in the process we can make a new friend.

* Croen, L. A., Zerbo, O., Qian, Y., Massolo, M. L., Rich, S., Sidney, S., & Kripke, C. (2015). The health status of adults on the autism spectrum. Autism : The International Journal of Research and Practice, 19(7), 814-823. doi:10.1177/1362361315577517 [doi]

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About morethanwords1

I'm a mom of two very different boys. One has no probelm talking, loves and is gifted at reading and writing and the other has a bright smile, amazing laugh but can barely talk.
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9 Responses to When it comes to disability and/or depression connection to others is a must

  1. candy says:

    I have struggled with depression my entire life and was only recently diagnosed with ASD. I am 50 and having trouble finding support. There are many programs and therapy and interventions for children but finding ones for adults….

    • Candy, I am glad you finally got an ASD diagnosis. And I have also struggled with depression. It is so much tougher finding interventions for adults with ASD. Know you are not alone!

  2. Renae Andersen says:

    I totally agree with Carlyle. I have 4 special needs children, grown up now, who do have struggles with depression. It is difficult to find help for them. The best we have found is, when they have supportive friends they function better.

  3. Carlyle says:

    I’m glad you decided to tackle this important topic. Thanks, my friend!

  4. Libby Bickers says:

    I absolutely agree! As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I have seen so many children and adults whose quality of life could have been better with more helpful services and a broader understanding of ASD by family and friends. Hopefully more information and resources will help to demystify ASD!

    • Libby, Thanks so much for your work as a social worker helping others. If I ever have the time, energy and finances I would love to get a master’s in social work. Probably won’t happen but I so appreciate you and other friends who are social workers.

  5. Carlyle says:

    Reblogged this on One Odd Duck and commented:
    This is a post from my friend Debbie, who recently interviewed me. She is also one of those encouraging me to get writing again.

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