Researchers Ask How Children With Autism Communicate Pain

Originally published in Bench to Bedside, the CHOP Research monthly publication.

I composed this original article based on an interview with the investigator.


When children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have acute medical needs, such as a broken bone or appendicitis, they are as likely to experience pain as any other child. But social and communication differences associated with ASD may cause clinical caregivers to miss cues showing that pain. This may compromise timely and accurate assessment and treatment. Recognizing this challenge, researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia conducted a qualitative study that suggests clinicians should be prepared to ask children on the spectrum about pain in different ways.

The interdisciplinary study team set out to learn more about how these youth express and describe the experience of pain. They enrolled participants with an ASD diagnosis who came to CHOP for surgery and whose verbal language proficiency was sufficient to complete interviews about their pain during their hospital stay after their operation. The results were published in January in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

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