Screening for Depression in Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities: Brief Report

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Objectives: (1) To examine adherence of universal screening for adolescent depression at initial visits by using an established screening instrument (Patient Health Questionnaire 9 [PHQ-9]) in a university-Affiliated urban developmental center that serves children with developmental disabilities (DDs); (2) to study the frequency of positive screening for depression in adolescents with DD. Methods: Review of all adolescents referred for multidisciplinary evaluation in a developmental center in 2019. Data included demographics, DD diagnoses, and use of and scores on the PHQ-9 at initial visit. Statistics included chi-square and non-parametrics. Results: Of all the children evaluated in 2019 (n = 240), 52 were adolescents, 35 boys (63%)/17 girls (37%), age 14 ± 2 years old, and 27 (54%) belonging to a bilingual English-Spanish household. DD: Developmental Language Disorder (88%), Learning Disabilities (54%), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (44%), Autism Spectrum Disorder (25%), Intellectual Disabilities (12%), and Phonological Disorder (8%). The PHQ-9 was administered to 30 (58%) individuals. Scores varied from minimal depression for 17 (57%), mild for 10 (33%), and moderate and severe for 3 (10%); 3 patients endorsed suicidality. Females were more likely to obtain higher scores on the PHQ-9 than males. Adolescents diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disabilities, and Phonological Disorder were less likely to be screened. Conclusion: More than half of the sample of urban adolescents with DD were screened for depression at initial visit, and 10% screened positive for moderate to severe depression. Efforts to follow the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation of universal screening of adolescent depression should continue. However, given challenges with reading and verbal abilities, screening modifications (reading to them) should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)572-576
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • developmental disabilities
  • ethnically diverse population
  • screening depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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