Autistic Depression Assessment Tool

Full preprint:
Nothing about us without us
Who: Cassidy & Colleagues
Where: Research Square
Published: 2021 (preprint)
Title: Development and Validation of the Autistic Depression Assessment Tool – Adult (ADAT-A) in Autistic Adults.
Autistic Depression Assessment Tool
Many autistic people experience depression in their lifetime. However, they can find it hard to get an accurate & speedy diagnosis, which means they might not get the treatment & support they need.
(Preprints are preliminary reports that have not undergone peer review. They should not be considered conclusive, used to inform clinical practice, or referenced by the media as validated information.)


They might struggle to get a diagnosis because the tools used to measure depression have not been designed with autistic people in mind. This leads to a number of problems, including…

Autistic people interpreting the questions differently to how the designers intended them to be interpreted.

Characteristics of autism & symptoms of depression sometimes overlap.

Autistic people experience depression which has different characteristics & indicators to non-autistic people.


This study aimed to co-produce a measure of depression for autistic people. There were a number of stages to this project, each collaborating with between 200-500 autistic adults, via interviews, surveys, and focus groups.

They found a number of problems with current measures of depression:
1) complex or abstract language or figures of speech
2) imprecise response options
3) anxiety related to not being able to answer accurately due to the imprecise response options
4) a lack of items relevant to autistic experiences


They were able to co-produce a depression measurement tool for autistic adults, which included the following features:

1) autism specific signs of depression
2) a response scale which more accurately describes a change from ones baseline & how these symptoms impact daily life
3) less complex language
4) questions to assess how long they have had difficulties and what the impact of these are
5) clarification of scales to include exact number of days and visual aids to quantify abstract responses (e.g. “somewhat”)

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