A review of: McDermott, S., Zhou, L., Mann, J. (2008). Injury Treatment among Children with Autism or Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(4), 626-633. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-007-0426-9

Although many studies have examined self-injury behaviors in children with severe autism, there is limited research on injury propensity and treatment at emergency care facilities. Some parents of children with severe autism report devoting significant effort in keeping their children safe, most often beyond what would be expected when raising typically developing children. Evidence of increased propensity for injuries could help parents advocate for specific treatments, services, and training that would address this particular challenge. In this study, the researchers examined the frequency and type of injury among 138,111 children insured by Medicaid in South Carolina. The sample included 1,610 children with an autism spectrum disorder and about 44,000 children with other developmental disabilities. Children with ASDs (Autism or PDD) had statistically significantly higher rates of head, face, and neck injuries, but lower rates of sprains and strains (which seem to be more common in sporting activities). In general, children with ASDs were 21% more likely to be treated for injuries than typically developing children. In regards to specific injuries, children with ASDs were 760% more likely to have a poisoning injury as compared to typically developing kids. There was no difference between the groups in regards to injuries inflicted by others, thus this data indicate that children with ASDs are not more likely to be injured by peers or adults. However, children with ASDs were 762% more likely to be treated for a self-inflicted injury. In general this study provides some compelling evidence indicating a higher risk for injury in children with autism as compared to typically developing children.

UPDATE: A couple of readers asked me to clarify the nature of the comparisons reported. The groups compared in the results I presented were 1,610 children with autism or PDD (some of whom also had co-morbid MR or another developmental disability) and 91,571 typically developing kids. The authors did not present sufficient information to compare the same variables between these 1,610 children and children with other developmental disabilities but not ASDs.


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2 Responses to Injury propensity among children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

  1. madam ovary says:

    Thank you for highlighting this study. I think it is absolutely crucial for the medical, educational and law enforcement communities to understand the increased risk of injuries to autistic people.

    Th worst day of my life was when my small boy ran into a busy intersection during a meltdown. He was unhurt but I sprained an ankle trying to catch him. It’s hard to describe the terror of seeing your children run blindly into traffic.

    Our local fire chief happened to be there and gave us a ride home. I refused medical help and my son continued to scream all the way home. Thank God the chief understood about autism or the day could have been much worse, with the two of us spending the day at a psych hospital or a social services office.

  2. Thank you for putting this out there with your “translation” Nestor. I think this is a very important study.

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