16 Days of Activism – violence against autistic children

Trigger warning: violence against children

Autistic children are up to three times as likely as non-autistic children to be targets of bullying, physical or sexual abuse, with high prevalence of maltreatment and adversity, including risk for suicidality (1). One study found autistic children four times more likely to experience some form of child maltreatment from adults than non-autistic children, including physical, psychological or emotional abuse (2).

In another study, 89% of autistic children had experienced at least one type of victimization – assault, sexual victimization, property victimization, maltreatment, witnessing crime – with 92% of those victimized experiencing at least one more occurrence within a year (3). However, most data on reports of violence are based in parent or carer report, which might not fully translate the child experiences of violence, especially in relation to that parent or carer.

Autistic children have also been found to be 28 times more likely to think about or attempt suicide than non-autistic children (4). In this study, some demographic variables were significant risk factors. 71% of autistic children aged ten or older who were male, black or hispanic, with parents not in professional or managerial occupations, thought of or attempted suicide.

It is incredibly important to develop services to prevent violence and support autistic children against it, and to ensure they can receive mental health support to recover from it when necessary.