Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 190–195 | Cite as

Suicidality in Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Commentary

  • Jonathan K.Y. Lai
  • Esther Rhee
  • David Nicholas


Recent studies report a higher prevalence of suicidality (ideation, attempts and deaths by suicide) among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than in the general population. Unfortunately, there is little research addressing the conceptualization and management of suicidality in the ASD population. In this commentary, we explore potential modifications in the processes leading to suicidality in individuals with ASD and considerations relevant to clinical support and service development. Specifically, based on a multilevel framework, we highlight individual, contextual and systemic risk factors of suicidality in the ASD population noted in the literature. We discuss how patterns of ASD-related behaviours may modify specific pathways in theories of suicide as developed for the general population. We explore how ASD symptomology may contribute to maladaptive coping strategies and dynamics between those with ASD and their care providers. Considerations for prevention and proactive responses at various levels of practice and implications for support and service development are discussed as future directions in the field.


Suicidality Psychology Suicide ideation Autism spectrum disorder Support Services 



We would like to thank Dr. Jonathan Weiss, Dr. Yona Lunsky and Jeri Kendle for sharing their clinical and community work experience, and thus contributing to the development of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan K.Y. Lai
    • 1
  • Esther Rhee
    • 2
  • David Nicholas
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Autism Speaks CanadaTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of Social Work, Central and Northern Alberta RegionUniversity of CalgaryEdmontonCanada

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