Recent years have shown an uptick in studies assessing bullying and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This article reviews extant findings, and points to gaps in the literature.
Children with ASD are bullied by peers at a rate three to four times that of nondisabled peers with negative impacts on academic functioning and mental health symptoms, including increased risk for suicidality. Children with ASD are also at enhanced risk for other ACES, particularly parental divorce and income insufficiency, and as observed in the general population, children with ASD who experience an increased number of ACES are at elevated risk for comorbid psychiatric and medical health problems. Children with ASD with an elevated number of ACES also experience a delay in ASD diagnosis and treatment initiation. There is no evidence of increased risk of child maltreatment within the ASD population.
As bullying and other adverse experiences are common and associated with deleterious outcomes in children with ASD, there is a need for additional research on intervention strategies to prevent and mitigate the impact of these experiences. Ongoing work on the assessment of trauma experiences and PTSD symptoms in children on the spectrum is also needed.