Mental illness is more common in Autistic people than in the general population and the symptoms of mental illness can be exhibited differently in autistic people due to their difficulty communicating their feelings, and their facial expression does not always portray their true emotions. This can be a challenge for families and healthcare workers as it may be difficult to diagnose psychiatric disorders.
Child Versus Adult
Research shows that half of all the lifetime cases of mental illness occur by the age of 14 and can become a regular part of a child’s behaviour unless it is diagnosed and treated early. Autistic children who experience mental illness are uniquely impacted if they attend school and can be excluded from mainstream classes, they can be bullied, and have their confidence and self-esteem eroded. These series of setbacks can transfer and impact their life as they transition into adulthood and leave behind the structural supports of an educational environment and routine. Autistic adults can lead lonely lives as they struggle with communication, and social skills and difficulties in getting employment.
Intellectually Disabled versus High Functioning Autism – the difference:
ASD: is a disorder that is not always associated with an intellectual disability and autistic people can have on average an IQ of 85 or higher. ASD people have a triad of impairments in three areas:
Intellectual Disability: is a disability that is characterized by impairment in reasoning, learning, and problem solving as well as interference in everyday social and practical skills such as learning new skills and living independently. This is a lifelong impairment and with an IQ score between 70 and 75.
IQ is an important component of the diagnostics and assessment in adults with ASD and Intellectual Disability. Typically, an IQ of less than 70 is done by the Learning Disability Team and are eligible for access to care services. High Functioning Autism can be misleading as many of the adults with an IQ of 70 and higher can still experience significant difficulties in social communication, interaction, and behaviours and need intense support in order to help them achieve their goals. The Care Act 2014 states that all adults with a diagnosis of Autism are eligible for access to care services and cannot be denied if their IQ is above 70. The professional undertaking the assessment should have a good understanding of ASD or relevant experience in that area. Services provided by the Learning Disability Team may not be appropriate to meet the unique needs of the Autism population and therefore a separate care plan should be devised.