Aditi Sirsikar ’22, Physiology & Neurobiology
Fall 2019 UConn Co-op Legacy Fellow – Change Grant Recipient
Are Depression Screening Tools Effective for Young Adults with Symptoms of Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that is characterized by challenges with communication and social interaction. Social isolation caused by symptoms of autism impacts one’s mental health. For this reason, people with autism are more likely to suffer from a mental illness compared to the general population. Unfortunately, evidence shows that depression in people with autism is underdiagnosed. This project is an evaluation of the efficiency of current depression screening tools in individuals with traits of ASD. This research aims to examine whether mental health tools appropriately serve people with autism and whether there is a need for autism-specific measures. There are many reasons why depression is difficult to diagnosis in autism. Assessing whether existing depression measures are effective is the first step to understanding how to improve mental health services for individuals with autism.
This project is a continuation of research funded by the Holster Grant this past summer. Preliminary results suggested that depression measures are not effective for individuals with autism. Through the Co-op Legacy Change Grant, Aditi hopes to continue learning about the forces that lead to underdiagnosis of depression in autism. More information about generic depression measures will allow mental health professions to better serve this group.
Aditi is very thankful for the support of Dr. Inge-Marie Egisti, professor of Psychological Sciences, and the UConn Office of Undergraduate Research.
Aditi Sirsikar is a STEM Scholar majoring in Physiology & Neurobiology. In high school, she volunteered for an organization that pairs children with disabilities with student volunteers for games of baseball. Her partner, “Anna” was a 7-year-old girl on the autism spectrum; this experience was Aditi’s first introduction to autism. Her interest in autism lead to a summer internship at Brain Power LLC., a technology startup that develops neuroscience-based software for individuals on the autism spectrum. Through moving conversations and additional research, Aditi became interested in understanding how to improve mental health resources for individuals with autism. She hopes to continue research in this field by pursuing a medical degree or a PhD. On campus, she is involved through Community Outreach and is the Marketing and Recruitment Coordinator for Peer Allies through Honors.