As a person with Autism and having suffered tremendous amounts of abuse as a child, I believe that 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 non-verbal, I never told anyone about the trauma I went through because I felt no one would believe me or it may increase the abuse.
There are ways that the Autism community and supporters can be aware of possible abuses to 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 that those who have suffered abuses can learn to heal and protect themselves. In this blog I outline the signs and results of abuses, as well as ways that those who have experienced abuse can rehabilitate.
What Statistics Show
- Abuse in children with disabilities ranges from a low of 22% to a high of 70% (National Research Council, 2001).
- Children with any disabilities are 3.44 times more likely to become victims of abuse than children without disabilities (Sullivan & Knutson, 2000).
- Children with intellectual disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely to become victims of crime than children without disabilities (Sobsey, et al., 1995).
- Children that have intellectual disabilities are at twice the risk of suffering physical and sexual abuse compared to children without disabilities (Crosse et al., 1993).
Types of Abuse:
- Physical Abuse: Any intentional act that causes bodily injury to another person.
- Emotional Abuse/Psychological Abuse: A form of abuse that 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 of 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 withdraw of my aspirations
- Low self esteem
- Post Traumatic Stress
- Psychological trauma
Not only do I live with the struggles that come with Autism but I also have to live with the psychological damage that comes from abuse. Unfortunately, children with Autism can face opposition from all places including community, school, home, or anywhere outside the home.
Parents and caregivers must be aware of signs of abuse and make sure that 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 among children with Autism is far too prevalent.
Most children who are not shown unconditional love, attention, and acceptance at home may find it elsewhere. Searching for this attention can lead children to find it in negative influences in the community, which can often offer the child all the attention, emotional, and material needs that they were not receiving at home. Most of these children end up committing an action that could cost them their freedom or life. For me, I suffered the same adversities, betrayal, rejection, and much more, but because I had Autism and was classified as “retarded” by many, I was always passed by.
Abuse in 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 to, get help and immediately call 911.
How I overcame and survived Abuse while living a life with Autism, and what others can do to heal and protect themselves:
Acknowledge and Recognize
Sadly most children who are a victim of trauma spend years either pondering the event or pretending it did not occur. Another issue is most victims blame themselves and are guilty of the event. The first part of healing is to acknowledge the event and remember it’s not your fault.
Childhood trauma can very well carry over into your adulthood, you remain a victim and make choices based on the past. You must remember that you cannot change the past, the only thing you can control is the present and future. When you take control by forgiving the person who caused the abuse and look towards the future, you begin to heal.
GET HELP ASAP
Do not suffer your painful past alone. Seek help and support immediately so you can heal. The first thing a person does as a victim of trauma is withdraw from people. Yet this withdrawal only escalates the pain. Consider seeing a psychologist, counselor, social worker, and create a support group of trusted individuals to help you heal from your trauma.
For every negative, replace with a positive:
There is always a brighter day after a dark night. Instead of turning to negative habits to heal from the trauma to avoid the pain, do something fun and positive to help you recover from the pain. Find something you enjoy to do if it’s drawing, writing, hanging out with friends, traveling or anything you enjoy doing, do those things. Every time you have negative thoughts or think of doing something negative, replace these habits with something positive and that will take your mind off of it.
It is difficult for any person to heal and let go of the trauma of their past. Oftentimes people can resort to 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 and having 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!
by Maverick Crawford III
Maverick Crawford was selected out of 1500 students as the Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student in the College of Public Policy at UTSA. He graduated from UTSA as Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice, Bachelor of Public Administration and a Minor in Civic Engagement. Maverick has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and is one of our most popular bloggers as he shares his experiences with our Aspergers101 audience.