Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Autistic Self Injury - Study Confirms Self Injurious Tendencies of Children with Autism Disorders

In Injury propensity among children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinical Psychologist and blogger Nestor L. Lopez-Duran Ph.D., host of Translating Autism, reviews a study which , in Nestor's words, "provides some compelling evidence indicating a higher risk of injury in children with autism as compared to typically developing children. "

The study - 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 provides information which confirms what many parents already know - children with autism are more likely to be injured than typically developing children. Generally children with autism disorder are 21% more likely to be injured than their typical peers. Two specific injuries that jump out by their magnitude - children with ASD's are 760% more likely to suffer a poisoning injury and 762% more likely to suffer from a self inflicted injury than their neurotypical peers.

I am no fan of the thinking of those who assert that autism disorder is not in fact a disorder; that it is just a natural variation that should be embraced, but any condition which results in such serious levels of self injury is obviously a disorder. Period.

Interestingly, despite the extreme rhetoric of the "autism is beautiful" crowd which tries to smear parents seeking to cure their autistic children by insinuating that such "curebie" parents are responsible for atrocities like the murder of Katie McCarron the study provides no assistance to their argument - children with ASDs are not more likely to be injured by peers or adults.

As a parent controlling and minimizing self injurious behaviors is one of the several reasons why I use and seek ABA intervention for my profoundly autistic son. His reality includes self aggression. The Michelle Dawsons and Amanda Baggs can ignore that reality. As his father I can not and this study is a perfect indicator of why I can not.

Many thanks, again, to Nestor L. Lopez-Duran for highlighting and explaining this study.


Maya M said...

Despite the study findings, however, I have read a number of reports by autistic adults about being injured by peers as children.
My personal experience - although I wouldn't meet even the current expanded criteria for ASD diagnosis, I remember peers in school physically attacking me for no apparent reason, sometimes saying that I wasn't "in order".

Unknown said...

Maya M

I would be surprised if there were not attacks on autistic persons by peers when they were children but the study points out that there are no more so than on other non-autistic children.

Axinar said...

"... but any condition which results in such serious levels of self injury is obviously a disorder. Period."

I would tend to agree that the self-injurious behavior itself should be classified as a disorder.

But how about the very mild cases?

The Aspergians and HFA's, who, although not necessarily physically self-aggressive, are simply loaded to the eyeballs with various tics and habits?

Should they be considered "diseased" as well?

Maya M said...

I have just read a self-report by an autistic adult about physical attacks by peers:
Once I mentioned on your blog a 15-year-old autistic boy who was gang-raped by classmates in my city.
To me, there is no question that being "different" makes a child preferred target for bullies. I wonder why this effect wasn't reflected in the study. Perhaps most autistic children in it were educated in a way similar to Conor's, in an individual setting, and so were not exposed to bullies. It is also possible that the control group, for some reason, included children bullied much for other reasons (e.g. race).
I think that we must be aware of the danger autistics face because of anti-disability prejudice of other people.

Anonymous said...

You may be interested to listen to the following two-part podcast on Autism and Bullying.



While there is a focus on AS in the podcasts, there is still some very good information with regards to all individuals on the spectrum and bullying.