Autism and post-traumatic stress disorder share many traits, but the connection between them was largely overlooked until now.
By: Lauren Gravitz
Date: 26 September 2018
Having autism can sometimes mean enduring a litany of traumatic events, starting from a young age. And for many, those events may add up to severe and persistent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Before Gabriel could even talk, his father’s girlfriend at the time told him his mother had abandoned him. At age 3, he was sexually abused by a cousin. He was mercilessly bullied once he started school, showed signs of depression by age 7 and by 11 began telling his mother he did not want to live. About three years ago, while at summer camp, he almost drowned. Shortly after that, he experienced life-threatening heatstroke when he went to get his Legos from the car trunk and accidentally locked himself in. Six months ago, just after his grandmother died, he attempted suicide.
“He’s been hurt and had so much disruption in his life that he’s having problems realizing that he has stability now,” says his mother, Kristina. (Kristina and Gabriel’s last names have been withheld to protect the family’s privacy.) “The world is chaotic and crazy for typically developed people. For him, it’s overwhelming and confusing.” Gabriel, now 13, started seeing a therapist about five years ago and last year was diagnosed with PTSD.