1 August 2013

Researchers at The University of Queensland are offering a free depression intervention for young adults with high functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who are feeling sad, depressed, or stressed.

The program is part of a trial study designed by world experts in Asperger’s syndrome: Griffith University Honorary Professor Tony Attwood and Dr Michelle Garnett from the Minds and Hearts Clinic in West End, Brisbane, a centre of excellence for Autism Spectrum Conditions.

The trial is the first of its kind in the world and involves adolescents with Asperger’s syndrome or high functioning autism aged between 15 and 18 years.

The intervention consists of 10 weekly sessions of group cognitive behavioural therapy followed by an extra booster session after four weeks, and will be provided by provisionally registered psychologists in the UQ Psychology Clinic.

UQ PhD candidate Damian Santomauro is currently recruiting participants for the study and will help to deliver the intervention.

“Depression can have a huge, negative impact on someone's quality of life, reducing their motivation to build relationships, to find employment and independence. Often a person who is feeling stressed and overwhelmed may not even realise that this is depression,” Mr Santomauro said.

“Even for typically developing individuals, adolescence is a crucial life stage and is usually associated with increased rates of depression.

"However, for an adolescent with ASD, they are also quite commonly faced with bullying, ostracism, and the realisation of how different they are from their peers.”

Recent data from the US shows that an average of one in 110 children has an ASD, with boys represented four times more than girls.

“At the moment there aren't any empirically supported interventions targeting depression for adolescents with ASD during this critical stage of their life, and seeking help can be expensive,” Mr Santomauro said.

“Because I’ll also be organising the psychometric tests and the empirical evaluation, then analysing the resulting data, this opportunity to work directly with families living with ASD is also going to be a great help towards my PhD project.”

Parents are invited to contact Damian by email at d.santomauro@uq.edu.au or mobile on 0422282169 should they be interested in the project.

Media: Damian Santomauro, d.santomauro@uq.edu.au, 0422 282 169. Kristen Bastian, UQ Communications, k.bastian@uq.edu.au or 3346 9279.