Self-reported and parent-reported pain for common painful events in high-functioning children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder

Clin J Pain. 2012 Oct;28(8):715-21. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e318243ecf6.


Objectives: Previous research suggests that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are at a higher risk for painful experiences, but there is limited research examining pain in children with ASD.

Methods: The current study examined self-reported and parent-reported pain in 20 high-functioning youth with ASD (17 boys; 3 girls) and 20 typically developing controls (16 boys; 4 girls) ranging in age from 9 to 18 years and matched on age and IQ. Participants with and without ASD rated their hypothetical pain in a series of pictures depicting common childhood situations. They also rated the amount of pain they would expect to feel (using the Faces Pain Scale-Revised and a Numeric Rating Scale) in a series of validated hypothetical pain situations depicted in cartooned images (eg, scraping knee on sidewalk). Parents rated the amount of pain they would expect their child to show in each of the same cartoon stimuli.

Results: There were no significant differences between pain vignette ratings of youth with ASD and their non-ASD peers or in the ratings provided by their parents. High-functioning youth with ASD were able to successfully use both of the self-report scales to rate pain.

Discussion: This is the first study to successfully obtain self-report of pain from youth with ASD. Implications for the understanding of pain and pain assessment in high-functioning youth with ASD are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / complications*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Self Report*