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Study Points To Bullying Risk Factors For Kids With Autism


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Kids with autism are more likely to be bullied as they get older but the odds of victimization are influenced by a variety of factors, new research suggests.

In a survey of teachers and parents, British researchers found that bullying is more common among kids on the spectrum who attend mainstream schools as opposed to special education environments. Bullying also becomes more prevalent as children enter adolescence, according to the findings published online in the journal Autism.

“Children with autism are easy targets because their behavior may be regarded as odd or different, and our research tells us this is likely to result in bullying, teasing and provocation,” said Judith Hebron of The University of Manchester who led the study. “But not all of these children are bullied, and as researchers, we are interested in finding out why.”

For the study, researchers asked 722 teachers of students with autism and 119 parents with children on the spectrum ages 5 to 15 about the kids’ experiences with bullying.

Children with autism who had strong support networks — including friends and teachers — were less likely to be bullied as were those whose parents were actively engaged at school, the study found.

At the same time, however, kids who struggled with behavior problems were more likely to be bullied. Children with autism who relied on public transportation or school buses to get to class each day were also at higher risk.

The researchers speculate that those with autism are more vulnerable as they enter their teen years because social interactions become increasingly complicated as typically developing peers become less tolerant of differences and more interested in adhering to social norms.

What’s more, researchers said that students with autism may experience less bullying at specialized schools because of higher staffing ratios. Likewise, the lack of adult supervision often found on public and school transportation may lead to vulnerable situations for young people with autism, they indicated.

“Our results send out a message to parents and teachers to help them identify opportunities where they can intervene to prevent bullying,” Hebron said.

The study is the latest adding to a growing body of evidence on the vulnerability of children with autism to bullying. Findings released last year from a survey of about 1,200 parents in the United States indicated that 63 percent of children with autism have been bullied.

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Comments (7 Responses)

  1. Tzephaniah says:

    Your missing the older generation, which also receive bully via govt entities, as they haven’t left their old ways an embraced the new.

  2. Moyra Duchenne says:


    This bullying thing is a complicated issue. My son from the time he entered mainstream at about 1o was bullied by a group of girls. School would not deal with said it would make it worse. I was bullied and look at me now was the approach. Came back to a special needs school for a year and then went into a technical high school full of beans. Son carried a lot of weight due to cortisone treatment at a point of his life. This was what caused the bullying. Macho boy says nothing but defends himself with his mouth. One set of bullies dealt with next arrived and so on. The school was asking us if we were victims and I was furious. Nonetheless persisted. Then he was beaten up – reported to the police – boy who did the beating was suspended for three days and then returned to school and they were in the same class. My boy said all is ok I will manage. Then came a series of sexual harassments due to his weight again and what in south africa were called his manboobs. He came home and told me that he was not returning to school – would not tell me why intially because he said it was too demeaning for him to tell me. I insisted because the school had to be informed. He told me – I burst into tears – said I would not send him back. Went to the school who said who were prepared to be co-operative but seemed to be largely unaware of the bullying that was prevalent in the school. Why had we not informed them earlier – which we had. Son refused to attend another school and we home schooled him for the three final years of schooling. I must say that he managed to do this mainly on his own. As an educator myself I did the literature setbooks with him and helped him with his second language which is obligatory here. Dad helped with maths and another tutor with science. He is now studying jounalism through a correspondence uni, Doing ok so far. The bullying has had a far-reaching effect on him. Interesting to read the report on this study. Thank you for listening. Moyra

  3. 80metalman says:

    I have worked with children and adults for many years and have found this to be true.

  4. Jon K. Evams says:

    Speak of the Devil! It happened to me! Chapter and verse!

  5. brunilda molina says:

    my son have pdd was bully and school is terrorist i mention go back to any training or other stuff
    i hope other parents get involved early intervention and get help my son finish school thank god
    and not want to know about school anymore please get help god bless you

  6. Janice Shay says:

    One other obvious reason autistic children become victims is that bullies are cowardly and seek out the most vulnerable to victimize! The children that have the support system required are the least likely to be bullied because the protective adults in their lives won’t give anyone the opportunity to victimize them! As a parent of three autistic children my daughter with Asperger’s was the most bullied because she was mainstreamed into mostly regular classes, in the halls between those classes, and on a regular bus to and from school. Bullying studies need to focus more on the reasons BEHIND the bullying and not on the obvious victims.

  7. Athena Blakely says:

    There really is a solution to this problem. There is a program called Project Unify that is operated by Special Olympics. I will not spend time trying to convince all of you of the merits of the program. I will say that it works and if you are interested in changing your schools then convince the educators that make the decision that being a Project Unify School is worth the effort. Then get up and get involved. I am an Autistic Person, I am a Project Unify Coordinator in my children’s school, and I am the proud Autistic Mom of 6 Autistic Kids and grandma to 3 autistic kids. I dislike person first language for all the reasons Jim Sinclair dislikes it and I support one of my older sons as he is stepping into a role as a future Global Messenger for Special Olympics and Project Unify. There are solutions to the problems if we actually want to solve them. Unfortunately I find that many times those that complain the loudest when their child is a victim are also those that are least willing to be proactive to prevent situations before they escalate.

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