Injuries among children with autism spectrum disorder

Anjali Jain, Donna Spencer, Wenya Yang, Jonathan P. Kelly, Craig J. Newschaffer, Jonathan Johnson, Jaclyn Marshall, Francisca Azocar, Loni Philip Tabb, Taylor Dennen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objective We compared risk of injury among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to those without ASD, adjusting for demographic and clinical characteristics. Methods We used claims data from 2001 to 2009 from a commercial health plan in the United States. A validated ASD case identification algorithm identified 33,565 children (ages 0-20 years) with ASD and 138,876 children without. Counting process models tested the association between ASD status and injury episodes with separate regressions run for children during different age periods. Results Unadjusted results demonstrated that children with ASD had a 12% greater injury risk than children without ASD (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.119; P <.001). After including demographic variables, the HR was 1.03 (P <.05); after controlling for co-occurring conditions, such as seizures, depression, etc, HR decreased to 0.889 (P <.001). For the age period analysis, HR values were as follows: for 0 to 2 years, HR 1.141; 3 to 5 years, HR 1.282; 6 to 10 years, HR not significant; and 11 to 20 years, HR 0.634 (P <.05 for all significant results). Conclusions Children with ASD have more injuries than children without ASD. After controlling for demographic factors and co-occurring conditions, children with ASD are at lower risk of injury, suggesting that co-occurring conditions or the ways these conditions interact with ASD is related to injuries. Clinicians should understand that injury risk in children with ASD may be driven by co-occurring conditions. Treating these conditions could thus decrease injury risk as well as have other benefits. Injury prevention interventions are especially warranted for younger children with ASD and those with seizures, depression, visual impairment, or attention-deficit disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-397
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) , National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services , under contract HHSN-271-2010-00033-C. The authors acknowledge the following for their contributions: Brady Post and Corey Lipow of the Lewin Group; James Burke, Jeffrey McPheeters, Thomas Horstman, and Felix Cao of OptumInsight; and Lindsey Lawer of Drexel University.


  • administrative claims
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • child injury
  • commercial insurance


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