Preventing Injuries in Children with Autism

Two children blowing bubbles.

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*Note: CSN selected to use the term Children with Autism for this webinar, but we acknowledge and recognize the equally valid term Autistic Children. We have left it up to the individual presenters to share the term they have used in their work. Individuals, communities, and organizations differ on which is the preferred term.  For more information, please see: 

The summer months bring new considerations for child safety, such as taking precautions for heat exposure, drowning, and playground safety. For children with autism, the risk of injury is often exponentially larger than the neurotypical population. Children with autism’s risk of drowning is 160 times higher (Guan & Li, 2017), which coupled with an increase in wandering and elopement, and communication challenges for non-verbal children, creates the need for additional considerations in preventing injuries.

In this webinar, Sarah Tinker, Ph.D. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC) will present an overview of autism spectrum disorder in U.S. children, including why they may be at increased risk for injuries.  Shericka Harris, MSPH (CDC) will describe unintentional drowning deaths in the U.S. among children and adolescents where autism was identified as a contributing cause of death. 

Jiabin Shen, Ph.D., and Yan Wang, Ph.D. (University of Massachusetts Lowell or UML) will present their population-based research that investigates disparities in injury and injury-related medical service utilization in children with autism using 22 years of data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). The findings offer scientists, clinicians, and policymakers evidence-based data to inform development of tailored injury prevention programs for children with autism. They may also contribute to improvement of healthcare services and delivery of care for children with autism in the U.S. CSN-A member Judy Qualters, Ph.D. (CDC) will moderate the webinar.  


Joseph Guan, Guohua Li, “Injury Mortality in Individuals With Autism”, American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 5 (May 1, 2017): pp. 791-793. 


Sarah Tinker

Sarah Tinker, Ph.D., MPH is an epidemiologist who serves as the Senior Scientist in the Child Development and Disability Branch at the CDC. In this role she provides scientific support to research, surveillance, and programmatic activities focused on serving the needs of children with developmental disabilities and their families throughout the lifespan.

Shericka Harris

Shericka Harris, MSPH is a Health Scientist in the Division of Injury Prevention (DIP) at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). She works to prevent drowning deaths, with a research focus on drowning prevention in children with autism. Shericka received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Spelman College and a Master of Science in Public Health degree with a concentration in Epidemiology from the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

Jiabin Shen

Jiabin (pronounced as JAR-BING) Shen, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at UML Department of Psychology. As Director of the UML Pediatric Injury Research Lab, Dr. Shen’s research focuses on reducing injury-related health and healthcare disparities among neurodiverse children and adolescents. Dr. Shen has published over 55 peer-reviewed articles and received over $1 million in grants from federal, state, and professional agencies, including a recent HRSA Autism Secondary Data Analysis Research Grant that supported the study being presented at this webinar.

Yang Wang

Yan Wang, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at the UML Department of Psychology. Her research program focuses on the development and application of statistical modeling to analyzing large-scale psychological and health data. Dr. Wang has published over 40 articles in peer-reviewed journals related to statistics and their applications. She currently serves as an Associate Editor of Behavior Research Methods. Her methodological and collaborative research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation and federal agencies (e.g., National Institutes of Health).


Judy Qualters

Dr. Judy Qualters is the director of the Division of Injury Prevention (DIP) in the CDC Injury Center. In this role, Dr. Qualters provides leadership to bridge science and practice in an effort to move the field of violence and injury prevention forward. She leads a diverse portfolio of work that includes surveillance, data and economic analysis, information technology, policy research, evaluation, and technical assistance to state health departments. Dr. Qualters is also a member of the Children’s Safety Now Alliance.


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