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We Must Talk About Abuse of Children With Autism

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As a person with autism who suffered tremendous amounts of abuse as a child, I believe it is vital for the autism community to understand how to deal with these issues. Being diagnosed with many disabilities along with autism, I lived a childhood of often being rejected and treated differently. Having autism and being nonverbal, I never told anyone about the trauma I went through because I felt no one would believe me, or it might increase the abuse.

There are ways the autism community and supporters can be aware of possible abuses, and advocate for those that cannot speak for themselves. Educators, family members, friends, and medical professionals should be keenly aware of the signs of abuse in those with autism. There are also many ways those who have suffered abuses can learn to heal and protect themselves. I want to outline the signs and results of abuse, as well as ways those who have experienced abuse can recover.

What Statistics Show

According to sources compiled by The Arc:

  • Abuse of children with disabilities ranges from a low of 22 percent to a high of 70 percent.
  • Children with any disabilities are 3.44 times more likely to become victims of abuse than children without disabilities.
  • Children with intellectual disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely to become victims of crime than children without disabilities.
  • Children with intellectual disabilities are at twice the risk of suffering physical and sexual abuse compared to children without disabilities.

Types of Abuse

  • Physical Abuse: Any intentional act that causes bodily injury to another person.
  • Emotional Abuse/Psychological Abuse: A form of abuse a person is subjected or exposed to that may result in psychological trauma.
  • Sexual Abuse: A form of domestic violence and abuse involving unwanted sexual contact / forced sex by another individual.
  • Child Neglect: When a parent or caregiver is intentionally denying or refusing to provide a child with the necessities for survival.

Child abuse and neglect can lead to developmental delays, aggressive behavior, and suicide.

How This Affected Me

  • Poor hygiene
  • Blamed myself for the abuse and not being successful like others with ASD
  • Neglect and withdrawal of my aspirations
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Psychological trauma
  • Suicidal

Not only do I live with the struggles that come with autism, but I also have to live with the psychological damage from abuse. Unfortunately, children with autism can face opposition from all places including community, school and home.

Parents and caregivers must be aware of signs of abuse, and make sure the safety of their children is their number one priority. The autism community must educate individuals about their rights and implement safety policies because abuse of children with autism is far too prevalent.

Children who are not shown unconditional love, attention and acceptance at home may seek it elsewhere. Searching for this attention can lead children to negative influences in the community, which can often offer the child all the attention, emotional and material needs they were not receiving at home. These children may end up engaging in behaviors that could cost them their freedom or life. I suffered the same adversities, betrayal, rejection and much more, but I was always passed by because of my autism.

Abuse of Autistic Children

Since children with autism are often non-verbal, here are a few things to detect in your child’s behavior.

  • Social withdrawal
  • Avoidance of specific places or people
  • Behavior outburst when in certain situations, places or around specific people
  • Developmental regression

Make sure your child with autism can identify and trust two adults to report the abuse, get help and immediately call 911.

This is how I overcame and survived abuse as someone with autism, and what in my experience others can do to heal and protect themselves.

Acknowledge and Recognize

Sadly most children who are victims of trauma spend years either pondering the event or pretending it did not occur. They often blame themselves and feel guilty. The first part of healing is to acknowledge the event and remember it’s not your fault.

Take Control

Childhood trauma can carry over into your adulthood. You must remember that you cannot change the past, the only thing you can control is the present and future.

Get Support

Do not suffer with your painful past alone. Seek help and support so you can heal. The first thing a person often does as a victim of trauma is withdraw from people. Yet this withdrawal only escalates the pain. Consider seeing a psychologist, counselor or social worker, and create a support group of trusted individuals to help you heal from your trauma.

Find the Positive

There is always a brighter day after a dark night. Instead of turning to negative habits to avoid the pain, do something fun and positive. Find something you enjoy, whether it’s drawing, writing, hanging out with friends or traveling. Every time you have negative thoughts or think of doing something negative, replace these habits with something positive.

Be Patient

It is difficult to heal and let go of the trauma of the past. Often people struggle with feelings of hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, acting out and other negative ways to release their trauma. Remember: everything in life takes time, especially the good. No matter how big or small your accomplishments are, celebrate these victories because it’s going to boost your confidence, self-esteem, and eventually help you heal from trauma.

Autism comes with enough adversities for a child, but being abused on top of it can bring great harm. It is tough going through life with these obstacles, especially when no one is supporting you. The only reason why I’m still standing today as a survivor of abuse who has autism is that my suicide attempts failed. You’re not alone, and I understand the pain you’re going through. Get help and believe in yourself. It’s going to take time, but you can overcome and heal from your trauma.

No matter what transpired in your life, no matter who you are, be proud of yourself because you went through adversities and conquered like a champion!

Getty image by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz.

Originally published: February 5, 2019
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