Autism and Mental Health


With one in every 45 kids being diagnosed with Autism, it is crucial that we highlight the importance of mental health. Autism affects everybody; addressing the mental health of caregivers, family members, and especially the person with Autism is important when creating a supportive environment for everyone.

In a recent Washington post article, Lauren Swick Jordan gives us a peak into the lives of her family, and particular, her fifteen-year-old son TJ, who has Autism. Her anecdote speaks to the need for open discussion and medical support.

Lauren describes the “scare” her family had a few days ago. She and her fourteen-year-old son, Peter were bickering, which is nothing new. The tension in the air often affects TJ. Lauren describes how “his sensory system can’t handle it, and it’s only a matter of time before he blows up in anger at his little brother.”

TJ blew up at Peter, but this time the teenager went at his brother with closed fists, threatening to hit him. Lauren’s husband Sean intervened and TJ hit and kicked him. Sean restrained TJ to apply some necessary soothing deep pressure, and TJ continued to hit, kick, and bite as much as he could. As the two fell to the ground, Lauren sat next to them and instructed TJ to take slow deep breaths. Eventually, TJ calmed downed.

Lauren describes how it is true to form that after TJ has an episode, he redirects his anger at himself. He berates himself, with fists and words. The tight-knit family was “prepared with some more soothing talking, deep pressure squeezes, and a lot of “We love you’s.”

A physically and mentally exhausted TJ retired for the night and headed up to bed. Lauren felt uneasy after he went to his room and decided to trust her gut instinct and go up after him a few minutes later. After TJ didn’t respond to Lauren’s knock on the door, she let herself in. Lauren describes seeing “her sweet TJ, opening his second floor bedroom window, so he could jump out.”

The family rushed TJ to the hospital, and Lauren experienced behavior she has never seen before. He was silent and stared straight ahead. For an hour, he didn’t speak at all. For his family, TJ’s behavior was terrifying. The entire night was terrifying.

TJ talked with a nurse to tell the story of what had happened. He spoke about his intentions in opening the window to go out. A light bulb lit up in Lauren’s head as she came to terms with the notion that they are dealing with a whole new piece of TJ’s mental health.

“I didn’t want to hurt myself. I wanted to get away.”

Lauren says she understands TJ’s impulse to flee when he gets angry, but had no idea that impulse would override the logic that fleeing from a second floor window could result in a serious injury or death.

In second grade, TJ was diagnosed with anxiety, and takes medication. After this incident, they decided it was time to raise his dose again to accommodate his recent growth.

Many kids on the Autism spectrum are diagnosed with at least one psychiatric disorder- most are usually diagnosed with more than one.

Lauren asks a crucial question: “With one in 45 kids on the autism spectrum, are our medical facilities prepared to care for the huge number of kids on the spectrum that will most likely seek help? Are there enough psychiatrists out there to help our kids in an emergency?”

She is scared that the answer for these questions is “no.”

With TJ’s permission, Lauren shares their story to bring these kinds of issues to light and open the all too important discussion.

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