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Behavioral Symptoms of Reported Abuse in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Inpatient Settings


The objective of this study was to examine how behavioral manifestations of trauma due to abuse are expressed in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) compared outcomes between patients with a caregiver reported history of abuse and those without. Findings indicate that patients with ASD and reported abuse (i.e. physical, sexual, and/or emotional) have more intrusive thoughts, distressing memories, loss of interest, irritability, and lethargy than those without reported maltreatment. Those with clinical diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had more severe and externalized symptoms than those with reported abuse not diagnosed with PTSD. Results emphasize the need for trauma screening measures to guide evidence-based treatments for children with ASD.

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The ADDIRC is made up of the co-investigators: Matthew Siegel, MD (PI) (Maine Medical Center Research Institute; Tufts University), Craig Erickson, MD (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital; University of Cincinnati), Robin L. Gabriels, PsyD (Children’s Hospital Colorado; University of Colorado), Desmond Kaplan, MD (Sheppard Pratt Health System), Carla Mazefsky, PhD (Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinics; University of Pittsburgh), Eric M. Morrow, MD, PhD (Bradley Hospital; Brown University), Giulia Righi, PhD (Bradley Hospital; Brown University), Susan L. Santangelo, ScD (Maine Medical Center Research Institute; Tufts University), and Logan Wink, MD (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital; University of Cincinnati). Collaborating investigators and staff: Jill Benevides, BS, Carol Beresford, MD, Carrie Best, MPH, Katie Bowen, LCSW, Briar Dechant, BS, Tom Flis, BCBA, LCPC, Holly Gastgeb, PhD, Angela Geer, BS, Louis Hagopian, PhD, Benjamin Handen, PhD, BCBA-D, Adam Klever, BS, Martin Lubetsky, MD, Kristen MacKenzie, BS, Zenoa Meservy, MD, John McGonigle, PhD, Kelly McGuire, MD, Faith McNeill, BA, Ernest Pedapati, MD, Christine Peura, BA, Joseph Pierri, MD, Christie Rogers, MS, CCC-SLP, Brad Rossman, MA, Jennifer Ruberg, LISW, Cathleen Small, PhD, Kahsi A. Smith, PhD, Nicole Stuckey, MSN, RN, Barbara Tylenda, PhD, Mary Verdi, MA, Jessica Vezzoli, BS, Deanna Williams, BA, and Diane Williams, PhD, CCC-SLP. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the coordinating site advisory group: Donald L. St. Germain, MD and Girard Robinson, MD, and our scientific advisory group: Connie Kasari, PhD., Bryan King, MD, James McCracken, MD, Christopher McDougle, MD, Lawrence Scahill, MSN, PhD, Robert Schultz, PhD and Helen Tager-Flusberg, PhD, the input of the funding organizations and the families and children who participated. The autism inpatient collection (AIC) phenotypic database and biorepository is supported by a grant from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, (SFARI #296318 to MS).

Author Contributions

JB conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; ZP participated in the design of the study and performed the statistical analysis; KAS participated in the design of the study and helped draft the manuscript; CM helped conceive and coordinate the study; RG helped conceive the study, participated in its design and helped with the interpretation of data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jamie Brenner.

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Brenner, J., Pan, Z., Mazefsky, C. et al. Behavioral Symptoms of Reported Abuse in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Inpatient Settings. J Autism Dev Disord 48, 3727–3735 (2018).

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  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychological trauma
  • Abuse
  • Autism inpatient collection