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Safety and Risk

Safety and RiskPeople with developmental disabilities are vulnerable to abuse of all kinds, including bullying and teasing.

The behavior of people on the autism spectrum often differs from that of their peers and can easily be misinterpreted. Many law enforcement officers are not trained to recognize autism or respond effectively to these behaviors, which can lead to agitation and even aggressive reactions.

Our Approach

We’re researching rates of risk behaviors for both adolescents and adults, whether adults feel safe in their communities, involvement with the criminal justice system and bullying in high school. We want to learn more about the safety of people on the autism spectrum and the risks they face.

Our Key Questions

How often do adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum engage in risky behaviors? 

How often do they become involved with the criminal justice system?

How often do they experience bullying and other forms of abuse? How safe do people feel in their communities?

Our Key Findings

This is what we’ve learned from our research so far:

  • Nearly half of youth on the autism spectrum were victims of bullying during high school. (NAIR, 2015)
  • Over one-quarter (27%) of adolescents engaged in some type of wandering behavior in which they impulsively left a supervised situation, increasing their risk of becoming lost and going missing. (NAIR, 2015)
  • Young adults reported very low rates of criminal justice involvement. Approximately 4% of young adults, who were able to self-report, said they had been stopped and questioned by police. (NAIR, 2015)
  • Approximately one-quarter of autistic young adults who were able to self-report said they ever had sexual intercourse. Around one-third of these used protection or birth control. (NAIR, 2015)

Additional Resources

You can also find links to our scientific journal articles.

Notable Publications