Individuals with ASD and Exceptional Cognitive Abilities Are at a Higher Risk of Suicidal Ideation

December 12, 2022

Higher IQ Is a Protective Factor Against Suicidal Behavior for Neurotypical Individuals but Not for Those on the Spectrum

A study from the University of Iowa that utilized multiple estimates of intellectual capacity (clinical, behaviorally predicted, and polygenic propensity) has determined that higher cognitive ability is significantly associated with more suicidal thoughts in children with autism. The team behind this research discovered that an autism diagnosis and increased cognitive ability have a synergistic effect, making twice-exceptional youth the highest-risk group for suicidal ideation. This study’s design involved examining two samples of high-ability autistic individuals for factors predictive of suicidal ideation and comparing those results to non-autistic children with the same intellectual capacity.  The analysis demonstrated that increasing IQ switches from a protective factor in neurotypical children to a risk factor for kids with autism. The team believes there is evidence that this higher risk has some roots in genetics. The authors found polygenic scores for cognitive performance and educational attainment were positively correlated with suicidal thoughts in children with autism as well as their parents. The study also points out that “camouflaging” autistic symptoms for individuals with high cognitive ability have been associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression. The authors suggest that this coping mechanism could lead to increased suicidal behavior. The study concludes that future work should focus on a longitudinal assessment of suicide risk in autistic youth, self-reporting risk factors among children with autism, and including more autistic females in study samples. 

Study Abstract

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons