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J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2019 Sep;40(7):563-565. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000717.

Transitions, Suicidality, and Underappreciated Autism Spectrum Disorder in a High School Student.

Author information

1
University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California.
2
Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
3
Division of Developmental Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
4
oston Medical Center, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA.

Abstract

Alex is a 14-year-old Portuguese-American boy with a psychiatric history starting at age 5 who presents to your primary care practice after an insurance change.He was delivered prematurely at 32 weeks and diagnosed with congenital hypothyroidism at the age of 6 weeks and growth hormone deficiency at the age of 2 years; he is in active treatment for both. He otherwise met developmental milestones on time yet continues to have significant fatigue despite adequate sleep and vitamin D supplementation.His family history is remarkable for maternal anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and previous attempted suicide, as well as anxiety, alcoholism, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the extended family.Alex has had multiple psychiatric diagnoses by sequential providers. He was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and ADHD by 5 years of age, major depressive disorder by 11 years of age, persistent depressive disorder by 12 years of age, and ultimately disruptive mood dysregulation disorder because of severe and persistent temper outbursts associated with negative mood and behavioral dysregulation, leading to recurrent crisis evaluations. He has been psychiatrically hospitalized twice, in the fifth and seventh grade, for suicidal ideation (SI) and elopement from home, respectively. He recently completed a 2-week acute residential placement, during which no medication changes were made. Current medications include escitalopram 20 mg daily, guanfacine 1 mg 3 times daily, sustained release bupropion 100 mg twice daily, levothyroxine, vitamin D, and a weekly somatropin injection. He has not been able to tolerate psychostimulants or nonstimulant agents because of treatment-emergent SI.Now in the ninth grade, he continues to be easily distracted by peers, with impulsive behaviors and reduced self-regulation. Despite receiving special education services since the fifth grade, his academic performance has been poor, and he has limited motivation. Previous testing indicated average in an intelligence quotient test, with relative deficits in working memory compared with above average strength in fluid reasoning. He dislikes school and has few friends. He has always been noted to be "immature." He displays temper tantrums at home and school around transitions and behavioral expectations and has complained of feeling "different" and misunderstood by peers in addition to having difficulty reading social cues. His interests include acting and playing Fortnite and other video/computer games. His screen time is limited to 1 to 2 hr/d by the family.As the new clinician, you raise the possibility of undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder as a unifying/underlying diagnosis with his mother, who disagrees and does not consent to additional workup despite your recommendations. How would you proceed with next steps to best support your patient and his family in obtaining further clarifying evaluation?

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