Which physical findings are characteristic of sexual abuse in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Updated: Sep 30, 2019
  • Author: James Robert Brasic, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Answer

Unlike many other children with mental retardation, children with autistic disorder are typically physically normal in appearance, without dysmorphic features. They may be beautiful children and, thus, may attract the interest of those who are sexually aroused by children. Children with autism spectrum disorder may lack ability to communicate inappropriate sexual contact to responsible authorities.

Thus, parents, teachers, health-care providers, and others must maintain a high level of suspicion for the possibility of sexual abuse when assessing children with autism spectrum disorder. On physical examination, external examination of genitalia is appropriate. If bruises and other evidence of trauma are present, then pelvic and rectal examinations may be indicated.


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