So the cat is somewhat out of the bag on Anne Kirby’s Autism and Suicide study. It’s elevated, but mostly due to girls and women on the spectrum. They found people with ASD are less likely to use guns, and let’s face it, you can’t even leave out permanent markers when the kids have Autism. But here’s my 5 things parents of ASD kids can try to support not dying:
1. Be Validating. This week I learned Linehans biosocial theory was developed for suicidality and then later associated with Borderline because you have to select a diagnosis to get a grant. I’ll cheat and highlight the how of validation in subsequent points. I guess what I technically mean is don’t be invalidating. Linehans theory is that a biological sensitivity of the limbic system is activated by an invalidating environment.
2. Don’t horribilize the disorder. This is where Autism Speaks’ fundraising is problematic, and there’s a question how we unroll the suicide data without increasing stigma. Autism is a pain in the butt but it’s not the end of the world, unless…
3) Embrace your Broader Autism Phenotype. You might be invalidating or horribilizing because of your own autistic bent. I know I have in the past, and my husband just might struggle still. Suicidality is associated with academically invisible autism (formerly “high functioning”). This kind almost always runs in the family.
4) Acceptance Commitment Therapy is based around values and strengths, not symptom reduction. Find the things you value and do well to select self-care and coping skills that work. For me that’s education. Family is higher value, but I have little control over it. Cooking is a greater strength but not as important.
5) Positive psychology can help in small doses. Don’t let it turn into a staggering “to do” list, but focus on one thing at a time. Think of Ben Franklin working on one of his 13 virtues per week, and over a year he had spent almost a month on each one. (Positive psychology sports 5 areas: happiness, flow, relationships, meaning & achievement).