A new study suggests that nearly two-thirds of autistic children have been bullied at some point in their lives.
In the first national survey on autism and bullying behavior, researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute discovered that that 63 percent of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been bullied at some point in their lives.
Investigators say that these children, who are sometimes intentionally “triggered” into meltdowns or aggressive outbursts by peers, are bullied three times more frequently than their siblings who do not have ASD.
“These survey results show the urgent need to increase awareness, influence school policies and provide families and children with effective strategies for dealing with bullying,” said Dr. Paul Law, a pediatrician and director of the Interactive Autism Network at the institute.
“We hope that this research will aid efforts to combat bullying by helping parents, policymakers and educators understand the extent of this problem in the autism community and be prepared to intervene.”
Investigators surveyed nearly 1,200 parents of children with ASD completed the survey. Findings show that these children (ages 6 to 15 years) are especially vulnerable to bullying, and point to a number of risk factors.
Among the conclusions:
Risk factors that may influence the bullying:
While children with ASD are frequently victims, they may also behave as bullies, or at least be viewed as a bully:
Investigators believe difficulties in social understanding among children with ASD may contribute to bullying behavior that is different than that displayed by typically developing children.
For example, an honest but socially unacceptable remark such as, “You’re fat,” by the child with ASD may be viewed by others as purposely cruel when it is not. Likewise, a child with ASD who is accidentally bumped into might misinterpret this as intentional, and lash out in a way that looks like bullying.
“Children with ASD are already vulnerable. To experience teasing, taunts, ostracism or other forms of spite may make a child who was already struggling to cope become completely unable to function,” said Law.
“The issue is complex and we plan to carefully analyze the data and publish peer-reviewed findings that will serve to advance policy and care for individuals with ASD.”
Source: Kennedy Krieger Institute