Children with autism are experiencing high rates of bullying and face significant emotional consequences as a result, a new study finds.
In what’s believed to be the largest look ever at autism and bullying, researchers found that 38 percent of children with the developmental disorder were bullied over a one-month period, in many cases repeatedly. What’s more, of those who were victims, 69 percent experienced emotional trauma and 8 percent were physically harmed as a result.
The findings were published this month in a study in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. They are based on a survey of parents of more than 1,200 kids with autism from across the country.
Initial results from the survey were first released last March, but the research published this month offers a more complete picture. The findings add to a growing body of evidence supporting concerns in the autism community that those on the spectrum are disproportionately affected by bullying.
“Our findings show that not only are these children being bullied more, but they are also experiencing significant short-term, and likely long-term, effects of being bullied,” said Paul Law, the study’s senior author and director of the Interactive Autism Network at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, which conducted the poll.
In the 63-question survey, parents were asked about their child’s school as well as their level of functioning and their experiences with bullying.
Of those who said their kids with autism were bullied, 14 percent of parents said their child was scared for his or her own safety after facing a bully while 40 percent said their child responded with a meltdown or outburst.
Nearly 1 in 10 kids with autism were identified as being bullies themselves.
Children diagnosed with autism and psychiatric conditions like depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were more likely to be victims of bullying, the study found. Meanwhile, kids with autism and conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder were more often bullies.