Direct and Inverse Correlates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among School-Age Autistic Boys

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 May 16;18(10):5285. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18105285.


Young people with autism are often bullied at school, a potential direct correlate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This may be compounded by their difficulties in social interaction. Alternately, some of these young people may develop 'coping strategies' against bullying that may have an inverse association with PTSD. As a vulnerable population for PTSD, a sample of 71 young males with autism were surveyed for their self-reported experiences of being bullied at school, their coping strategies for dealing with this bullying, and their own evaluations of the severity of two of the key diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Their mothers also provided a rating of the severity of the three major diagnostic criteria for autism for these boys. Over 80% of this sample had been bullied, and there was a significant direct correlation between this and PTSD score, and between their mother-rated severity of the boys' social interaction difficulties, but also a significant inverse correlation between their coping strategies and PTSD score. There were differences in these relationships according to whether the boys attended elementary or secondary school. These findings hold implications for the identification, assessment and support of autistic youth at risk of PTSD.

Keywords: autism; bullying; school; stress; trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Bullying*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Schools
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology