New Study Examines Relationship Between Bullying, Autism

A new study conducted by the Interactive Autism Network (part of the Kennedy Krieger Institute) looked closely at why bullying in school continues to be a serious problem faced by children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  The findings highlight two difficult truths - most autistic children have experienced bullying, and more than half feel they have been purposely provoked into fighting by bullies.

Almost two-thirds of autistic children had been bullied at some point in their lives, and they were three times more likely than neurotypical kids to be bullied in the past three months. This was even true for home-schooled autistic children, who were sometimes educated at home precisely because of the bullying issue. "After a horrible year in 3rd grade," said one mother, "where he was clinically diagnosed as depressed (he has always been anxious), I pulled my son out of public school and am homeschooling him this year. He is doing much, much better without the constant name calling and being singled out for his 'weird' behaviors!"

The three most common types of bullying were verbal, or, in other words, psychological in nature: "being teased, picked on, or made fun of" (73%); "being ignored or left out of things on purpose" (51%), and "being called bad names" (47%). But almost a third of autistic children also experienced physical bullying – being shoved, pushed, slapped, hit, or kicked.

Even more disturbing was the fact that over half of the autistic children surveyed had experienced intentional triggering of meltdowns or had been "provoked into fighting back." One mother said, "Often kids try to upset her because they find it funny when she gets upset and cries. She is overly emotional, and they seem to get a kick out of this."

Bullying was most pronounced in regular public schools (43%), but better in special education public schools (30%), and lowest in regular private schools and special education private schools (28% and 18%, respectively).

Image: Clenched fists, via Shutterstock


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